Precision rehabilitation interventions in neurological patients undergoing robot-assisted motor training

by Prof. Paolo Bonato (Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Motion Analysis Laboratory at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Boston MA)

When: November 2, 2023, at 3:00 pm

Where: Sala Seminari VIMM (Building A, Ground Floor, Via Orus 2, Padova)

In this talk, we will review the use of robotics in rehabilitation medicine with a focus on retraining motor function in patients with neurological conditions ranging from stroke to cerebral palsy. We will argue that the prediction of patients’ response to robot-assisted motor training should account for the mechanisms underlying the short-term and long-term response of each patient to the forces generated by the robot. The problem will be framed in the context of motor adaptation, defined as the process by which subjects respond to the forces exerted by the robot via a motor plan aimed to counter the effects of such forces. We will present experimental evidence in support of the hypothesis that, during robot-assisted gait training, the generation of a motor response to the robot is observed only if the forces exerted by the robot are processed by the central nervous system as challenging the dynamic stability of the subject. We will discuss how the analysis of muscle synergies could shed light on the characteristics of motor adaptation. Experimental results will be presented showing preliminary evidence of a feedback and feedforward response to robot-exerted forces that could be used in future studies to predict the ability of patients to display a positive response to the rehabilitation intervention. Results of a pilot study will be presented to demonstrate changes in muscle synergies associated with clinical outcomes of robot-assisted gait training. Finally, we will present preliminary results on sensory augmentation techniques aimed to boost (and potentially restore) the ability of patients to generate a motor adaptation to robot-exerted forces hence providing an opportunity to retrain the ability of patients to generate new or modify existing motor plans.

The seminar is organized by the PNC with the patronage of the Department of Neuroscience – DNS, University of Padova.