A study examining the effects of exoskeleton-assisted walking on gait parameters and neuromuscular activity in able-bodied individuals and those with spinal cord injury (SCI) was published recently in The Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine.

The study included four able-bodied individuals and four who experienced a SCI, and all of whom used robotic devices from Richmond, Calif-based Ekso Bionics.

In the study, researchers from Kessler Foundation measured the effects of exoskeleton-assisted walking under the “Max Assist” condition during a single session on gait parameters, including the 3D kinematics of ankle, knee, and hip motion, and muscle activation patterns. They also collected data during overground non-exoskeleton-assisted walking among the able-bodied participants.

The “Max Assist” setting is engineered to provide the maximum amount of motor assistance to the lower limbs while walking through a predefined walking pattern, explains a media release from Kessler Foundation.

“For the participants with SCI during a single testing session, we identified specific patterns of muscle firing in the legs that suggest a neuromuscular training response may exist for individuals who complete repeated training bouts of walking using the powered exoskeleton,” says Arvind Ramanujam, MS, senior engineer in human performance & engineering Research at Kessler Foundation, in the release.

“For the able-bodied individuals, when comparing walking with and without using the exoskeleton, we saw major differences in muscle activation patterns and walking speed,” he adds. “Our data show that longitudinal studies are definitely needed using different settings for powered exoskeleton training. The number of participants needs to be increased to more accurately evaluate the potential of powered exoskeletons to improve recovery of gait after a spinal cord injury.”

Gail Forrest, PT, PhD, associate director of human performance & engineering research at Kessler Foundation, states that, “This study is an important step towards understanding the potential for exoskeleton-assisted walking to induce changes in neuroplasticity in individuals with motor complete and incomplete spinal cord injury.”

[Source(s): Kessler Foundation, PRWeb]