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Bilateral robot therapy based on haptics and reinforcement learning: Feasibility study of a new concept for treatment of patients after stroke
OBJECTIVE: To carry out a preliminary feasibility study of a new concept of robot therapy for severely impaired patients after stroke.
DESIGN: A haptic manipulandum connected to a bar that can rotate freely while providing a measure of the rotation angle. The controller combines a bilateral reaching task with the task of balancing the action of the 2 arms. Reinforcement is given to the subject in 2 forms: audio-visual and haptic by means of adaptable force fields.
Patients: Four highly paretic patients with chronic stroke (Fugl-Meyer score less than 15).
METHODS: The training cycle consisted of 5 sessions over a period of 2 weeks. Each session (45 min) was divided in blocks of 10 pairs of forward/backward movements. Performance was determined by evaluating the number of successful movements per session, the session-by-session decrease in the assistive field, the mean reaching time, and the mean stopping field.
RESULTS: All subjects could understand the task, appreciated it and improved their performance during training. The reaching movements became smoother and quicker; balance errors and the magnitude of the resisting field were consistently reduced.
CONCLUSION: Bilateral robot therapy is a promising technique, provided that it self-adapts to the patient’s performance. Formal clinical trials should address this point.
Valentina Squeri, Maura Casadio, Elena Vergaro, Psiche Giannoni , Pietro Morasso, Vittorio Sanguineti
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