Summary for RRD communications

RRD has started an exciting collaboration with two Danish partners, LifeScience Robotics and Aalborg University, with a new take on how we can make use of robots in rehabilitation. Uniquely, this project targets especially early-stage stroke patients with severe movement limitations of the leg, with a combined approach of robotics and electrical stimulation.

The starting point is ROBERT, a robot that can provide continuous passive motions for bedridden patients, developed by LifeScience Robotics. Funded through the Eurostars programme by both Danish and Dutch (via RVO) national grants, the ROBERT-SAS project will expand ROBERT with an active module that, what’s in a name, senses and stimulates active movement. Picking up any remaining active movement control of a patient with severe movement limitations of the legs provides input to a new module, combining robotics and electrical stimulation, to produce movement in an ’assist-as-needed’ manner. This way, our Danish-Dutch collaboration aims to uncover and exploit the potential for (partial) restoration of movement, in a target population that is largely underrepresented in the field of rehabilitation technology.

The overall project goal is to develop a software suite and modular fixtures for ROBERT with integrated sensors for detecting muscle activity (EMG) and providing functional electrical stimulation (FES), enabling robot-assisted and patient-driven rehabilitation of bedridden patients using a mobile robotic arm. The system will promote active engagement of the patient during therapy, known to facilitate the recovery. Arm and mount are already developed as prototypes (ROBERT), CE-certified and pilot tested in clinical settings at Danish hospitals with simple controller software.

In the ROBERT-SAS project, controller software (meta programs) for the robot arm is further developed with EMG and FES integration, with programs for preventing blood clots, pointed feet, bedsores, and for rehabilitation of functional movements such as getting up (lower extremities muscles) and to be extended to gripping function (upper extremities muscles). The role of RRD in the project is to provide the clinical and biomedical scientific perspective to the active module to be developed, and to evaluate various prototypes with stroke patients. For this, we will collaborate with Roessingh Center for Rehabilitation.

By doing so, the researchers at RRD are aiming at better understanding recovery processes of severely affected stroke patients regarding leg function, and whether and how it can be affected by the different technologies (robot support and FES support) or their combinations.