A passive exoskeleton can assist split-belt adaptation

Takashi Sado, James Nielsen, Brian Glaister, Kota Z. Takahashi, Philippe Malcolm, Mukul Mukherjee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

An exoskeletal device can assist walking in those with gait deficits. A passive exoskeleton can be a favorable choice for local or home rehabilitation settings because it is affordable, light weight, and less complex to utilize. While there is research that investigates the effects of exoskeleton on gait research examining the effects of such devices on gait adaptation, is rare. This is important because in diseases like stroke, the ability to flexibly adapt is affected, such that functional recovery becomes difficult. The purpose of this study was to characterize gait adaptation patterns that result from exoskeleton usage during a split-belt adaptation task. Healthy young participants were randomly assigned to a unilateral exoskeleton or a no-exoskeleton group. Each participant performed the specific split-belt adaptation tasks on the treadmill, where the speed of each belt could be controlled independently. Symmetry indices of spatiotemporal variables were calculated to quantify gait adaptation. To analyze the adaptation, trials were divided into early and late adaptation. We also analyzed degree of adaptation, and transfer effects. We also measured the symmetry of the positive power generated by the individual legs during the split-belt task to determine if using exoskeleton assistance reduced power in the exoskeleton group versus the no-exoskeleton group. Use of a passive exoskeleton device altered gait adaptation during a split-belt treadmill task in comparison to the control group. Such adaptation was found to be largely restricted to the temporal domain. Changes in the gait coordination patterns consisted of both early and late adaptive changes, especially in intra-limb patterns like stance time rather than inter-limb patterns like step time. Although the symmetry of the positive power generated during the split-belt task was found to be reduced for the exoskeleton-assistance group, it was shown that this was primarily the result of increased positive power generated by the side not receiving exoskeletal assistance. An unpowered assistive device can provide a unique solution for coordinating the lower limbs during different gait tasks. Such a solution could reduce the neural burden of adaptation consequently resulting in a reduction of the mechanical burden of walking during the bilateral gait coordination task. This may be useful for accelerating gait rehabilitation in different patient populations. However, balance control is important to consider during unilateral exoskeletal assistance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1159-1176
Number of pages18
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Volume240
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2022

Keywords

  • Asymmetry
  • Coordination
  • Gait mechanics
  • Memory
  • Motor learning
  • Walking
  • Work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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