2023/12 Robotic exoskeleton embodiment in post-stroke hemiparetic patients: an experimental study about the integration of the assistance provided by the REFLEX knee exoskeleton


“Hemiparetic gait is the most common motor-disorder after stroke and, in spite of rehabilitation efforts, it is persistent in 50% of community dwelling stroke-survivors. Robotic exoskeletons have been proposed as assistive devices to support impaired joints. An example of these devices is the REFLEX knee exoskeleton, which assists the gait of hemiparetic subjects and whose action seems to be properly embodied by stroke survivors, who were able to adapt the motion of their non-assisted limbs and, therefore, reduce their compensation mechanisms. This paper presents an experimental validation carried out to deepen into the effects of REFLEX’s assistance in hemiparetic subjects. Special attention was paid to the effect produced in the muscular activity as a metric to evaluate the embodiment of this technology. Significant differences were obtained at the subject level due to the assistance; however, the high dispersion of the measured outcomes avoided extracting global effects at the group level. These results highlight the need of individually tailoring the action of the robot to the individual needs of each patient to maximize the beneficial outcomes. Extra research effort should be done to elucidate the neural mechanisms involved in the embodiment of external devices by stroke survivors.”