Design Engineering

Rehabilitation robotic device helps stroke survivors recover


Automation Medical rehabilitation Robotics

The rehabilitation robotic system quantitatively measures the 3 degree-of-freedom (DOF) impedance of human forearm and wrist in minutes.

Robotic-assisted rehabilitation therapy is one of the latest developments to help those with mobility afflictions. Recently, a Toronto-based startup developed exoskeleton for children suffering from cerebral palsy. Now researchers have developed a new robotic tool for assessments of muscle overactivity and movement dysfunction in stroke survivors. This new study, in association with UNIST, explores the benefits of robotic-assisted rehabilitation therapy, combined with standard rehabilitation, which  is expected to improve the mobility of patients surviving a stroke.

rehabilitation robotic device for stroke survivors

This image shows the experimental setup for the estimation of the 3 DOF human forearm and wrist impedance. Credit: UNIST.

The team has been led by Professor Sang Hoon Kang of Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering at UNIST in collaboration with Professor Pyung-Hun Chang of DGIST and Dr. Kyungbin Park of Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.

Professor Kang and his team developed a rehabilitation robotic system that quantitatively measures the 3 degree-of-freedom (DOF) impedance of human forearm and wrist in minutes.

Using their impedance estimation device, entitled the distal internal model based impedance control (dIMBIC)-based method, the team was able to accurately characterize the 3 DOF forearm and wrist impedance, including inertia, damping, and stiffness, for the first time.


According to the Ontario Stroke Network, approximately 426,000 Canadians are living with the effects of stroke and every year, nearly 14,000 Canadians die from stroke. The syndrome is a leading cause of long-term disability and occurs due to  a sudden loss of brain function, caused by the interruption of blood flow to the brain or the rupture of a blood vessels in the brain.

Stroke survivors are often left with muscle overactivity, including spasticity. Spasticity is a muscle control disorder that is characterized by tight or stiff muscles and an inability to control those muscles. It is often manifested by increased stretch reflex activity and mechanical joint resistance.

“The dIMBIC-based method can be used to assist in the quantitative and objective evaluation of neurological disorders, like stroke,” says Professor Kang. “Findings from this study will open a new chapter in robot-assisted rehabilitation in the workplace accident rehabilitation hospitals, as well as in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.”

The research team expects that, in the long run, the proposed 3 DOF impedance estimation may promote wrist and forearm motor control studies and complement the diagnosis of the alteration in wrist and forearm resistance post-stroke by providing objective impedance values including cross-coupled terms.

The study is published in the May issue of the prestigious journal, IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering.


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