“The algorithm evaluates the optimal amount of body weight support for each patient,” says Grégoire Courtine, one of the study authors at EPFL’s Brain Mind Institute. This helps them rebuild lost muscle mass and relearn posture and movement, while also retraining their brains to handle the delicate balance between gravity and forward motion that walking requires.
The new system improved the in-harness gait of people following a stroke or a spinal injury. And after a single, 1-hour training session with the smart harness, people with spinal cord injury showed immediate improvement in their gait out of the harness over those given no physio session at all, the authors report today.
Artificial intelligence is widely used in rehabilitation, says Farshid Amirabdollahian at the University of Hertfordshire, UK. “We have multiple products in the market where robots help individuals recover from stroke,” he says. These include robotic gloves that exercise the hand and wrist, and a rehabilitation robot that encourages and aids repetitive exercises at home.
For walking assistance, even robotic harnesses that operate without algorithms have become smarter at load balancing and understanding how far to push people, using readings on muscle activity and brain scans, says Amirabdollahian. “As the systems become more clever, the results of the rehabilitation become much better,” he says.
The next goal is to commercialise the smart harness, dubbed RYSEN, alongside further clinical trials, says Courtine.
Journal reference: Science Translational Medicine, DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aah3621Article link: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2141286-robot-physical-therapist-helps-people-walk-again-after-a-stroke/