A Simple Robotic System for Neurorehabilitation


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Abstract

In the recent past, several researchers have shown that important variables in relearning motor skills and in changing the underlying neural architecture after stroke are the quantity, duration, content, and intensity of training sessions. Unfortunately, when traditional therapy is provided in a hospital or rehabilitation center, the patient is usually seen for few hours a week. Robot-mediated therapies could improve this situation but even if interesting results have been achieved by several groups, the use of robot-mediated therapy has not become very common in clinical practice. This is due to many different reasons (e.g., the “technophobia” of some clinicians, the need for more extensive clinical trials) but one of the more important is the cost and the complexity of these devices which make them difficult to be purchased and used in all the clinical centers.The aim of this work was to verify the possibility of improving motor recovery of hemiparetic subjects by using a simple mechatronic system. To achieve this goal, our system (named “MEchatronic system for MOtor recovery after Stroke” (MEMOS)) has been designed with the aim of using mainly “off-the-shelf products” with only few parts simply manufactured with standard technology, when commercial parts were not available. Moreover, the prototype has been developed taking into account the requirements related to the clinical applicability such as robustness and safety.The MEMOSsystem has been used during clinical trials with subjects affected by chronic hemiparesis (<6 months from the cerebrovascular accident). The results obtained during these experiments seem to showthat notwithstanding the simple mechatronic structure characterizing theMEMOSsystem, it is able to help chronic hemiparetics to reduce their level of impairment.Further clinical experiments with acute and chronic subjects will be carried out in order to confirm these preliminary findings. Moreover, experiments for tele-rehabilitation of patients will be also carried out.

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