BackgroundOur body schema gives the subjective impression of being highly stable. However, a number of easily-evoked illusions illustrate its remarkable malleability. In the rubber-hand illusion, illusory ownership of a rubber-hand is evoked by synchronous visual and tactile stimulation on a visible rubber arm and on the hidden real arm. Ownership is concurrent with a proprioceptive illusion of displacement of the arm position towards the fake arm. We have previously shown that this illusion of ownership plus the proprioceptive displacement also occurs towards a virtual 3D projection of an arm when the appropriate synchronous visuotactile stimulation is provided. Our objective here was to explore whether these illusions (ownership and proprioceptive displacement) can be induced by only synchronous visuomotor stimulation, in the absence of tactile stimulation.Methodology/Principal FindingsTo achieve this we used a data-glove that uses sensors transmitting the positions of fingers to a virtually projected hand in the synchronous but not in the asynchronous condition. The illusion of ownership was measured by means of questionnaires. Questions related to ownership gave significantly larger values for the synchronous than for the asynchronous condition. Proprioceptive displacement provided an objective measure of the illusion and had a median value of 3.5 cm difference between the synchronous and asynchronous conditions. In addition, the correlation between the feeling of ownership of the virtual arm and the size of the drift was significant.Conclusions/SignificanceWe conclude that synchrony between visual and proprioceptive information along with motor activity is able to induce an illusion of ownership over a virtual arm. This has implications regarding the brain mechanisms underlying body ownership as well as the use of virtual bodies in therapies and rehabilitation.
This paper proposes a new multimodal architecture for gaze-independent brain-computer interface (BCI)-driven control of a robotic upper limb exoskeleton for stroke rehabilitation to provide active assistance in the execution of reaching tasks in a real setting scenario. At the level of action plan, the patient's intention is decoded by means of an active vision system, through the combination of a Kinect-based vision system, which can online robustly identify and track 3-D objects, and an eye-tracking system for objects selection. At the level of action generation, a BCI is used to control the patient's intention to move his/her own arm, on the basis of brain activity analyzed during motor imagery. The main kinematic parameters of the reaching movement (i.e., speed, acceleration, and jerk) assisted by the robot are modulated by the output of the BCI classifier so that the robot-assisted movement is performed under a continuous control of patient's brain activity. The system was experimentally evaluated in a group of three healthy volunteers and four chronic stroke patients. Experimental results show that all subjects were able to operate the exoskeleton movement by BCI with a classification error rate of 89.4±5.0% in the robot-assisted condition, with no difference of the performance observed in stroke patients compared with healthy subjects. This indicates the high potential of the proposed gaze-BCI-driven robotic assistance for neurorehabilitation of patients with motor impairments after stroke since the earliest phase of recover
This paper presents a novel electromyography (EMG)-driven hand exoskeleton for bilateral rehabilitation of grasping in stroke. The developed hand exoskeleton was designed with two distinctive features: (a) kinematics with intrinsic adaptability to patient's hand size, and (b) free-palm and free-fingertip design, preserving the residual sensory perceptual capability of touch during assistance in grasping of real objects. In the envisaged bilateral training strategy, the patient's non paretic hand acted as guidance for the paretic hand in grasping tasks. Grasping force exerted by the non paretic hand was estimated in real-time from EMG signals, and then replicated as robotic assistance for the paretic hand by means of the hand-exoskeleton. Estimation of the grasping force through EMG allowed to perform rehabilitation exercises with any, non sensorized, graspable objects. This paper presents the system design, development, and experimental evaluation. Experiments were performed within a group of six healthy subjects and two chronic stroke patients, executing robotic-assisted grasping tasks. Results related to performance in estimation and modulation of the robotic assistance, and to the outcomes of the pilot rehabilitation sessions with stroke patients, positively support validity of the proposed approach for application in stroke rehabilitation.
BackgroundExoskeletons for lower and upper extremities have been introduced in neurorehabilitation because they can guide the patient’s limb following its anatomy, covering many degrees of freedom and most of its natural workspace, and allowing the control of the articular joints. The aims of this study were to evaluate the possible use of a novel exoskeleton, the Arm Light Exoskeleton (ALEx), for robot-aided neurorehabilitation and to investigate the effects of some rehabilitative strategies adopted in robot-assisted training.MethodsWe studied movement execution and muscle activities of 16 upper limb muscles in six healthy subjects, focusing on end-effector and joint kinematics, muscle synergies, and spinal maps. The subjects performed three dimensional point-to-point reaching movements, without and with the exoskeleton in different assistive modalities and control strategies.ResultsThe results showed that ALEx supported the upper limb in all modalities and control strategies: it reduced the muscular activity of the shoulder’s abductors and it increased the activity of the elbow flexors. The different assistive modalities favored kinematics and muscle coordination similar to natural movements, but the muscle activity during the movements assisted by the exoskeleton was reduced with respect to the movements actively performed by the subjects. Moreover, natural trajectories recorded from the movements actively performed by the subjects seemed to promote an activity of muscles and spinal circuitries more similar to the natural one.ConclusionsThe preliminary analysis on healthy subjects supported the use of ALEx for post-stroke upper limb robotic assisted rehabilitation, and it provided clues on the effects of different rehabilitative strategies on movement and muscle coordination.
This study, conducted in a group of nine chronic patients with right-side hemiparesis after stroke, investigated the effects of a robotic-assisted rehabilitation training with an upper limb robotic exoskeleton for the restoration of motor function in spatial reaching movements. The robotic assisted rehabilitation training was administered for a period of 6 weeks including reaching and spatial antigravity movements. To assess the carry-over of the observed improvements in movement during training into improved function, a kinesiologic assessment of the effects of the training was performed by means of motion and dynamic electromyographic analysis of reaching movements performed before and after training. The same kinesiologic measurements were performed in a healthy control group of seven volunteers, to determine a benchmark for the experimental observations in the patients' group. Moreover degree of functional impairment at the enrolment and discharge was measured by clinical evaluation with upper limb Fugl-Meyer Assessment scale (FMA, 0-66 points), Modified Ashworth scale (MA, 0-60 pts) and active ranges of motion. The robot aided training induced, independently by time of stroke, statistical significant improvements of kinesiologic (movement time, smoothness of motion) and clinical (4.6 ± 4.2 increase in FMA, 3.2 ± 2.1 decrease in MA) parameters, as a result of the increased active ranges of motion and improved cocontraction index for shoulder extension/flexion. Kinesiologic parameters correlated significantly with clinical assessment values, and their changes after the training were affected by the direction of motion (inward vs. outward movement) and position of target to be reached (ipsilateral, central and contralateral peripersonal space). These changes can be explained as a result of the motor recovery induced by the robotic training, in terms of regained ability to execute single joint movements and of improved interjoint coordination of elbow and shoulder joints.
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