Author: Robert Trott

  • Thesis download: available for open access on 10 Feb 2020.

Trott, Robert, 2016 THE NOVEL CONTROL OF A UNILATERAL EXOSKELETON FOR POST HEMIPARETIC STROKE GAIT REHABILITATION, Flinders University, School of Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematics

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The work within presents a proof of concept prototype for the novel control of a unilateral exoskeleton for use in the rehabilitation of gait following stroke. Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the developed world with approximately 15 million people suffering a stroke annually, of which a third will die as a result and another third will be left with a permanent disability. Currently in Australia an estimated 440,000 people have suffered a stroke with 50,000 new or recurrent strokes each year. The consequences of stroke vary, depending on location and severity, with symptoms ranging from memory loss to speech, vision and reasoning impairments, as well as paralysis. Of particular interest to this thesis is stroke that affects one side of the brain that results in paralysis of the opposite lower limb. Such a stroke will likely result in a gait impairment which can, depending on the severity, have profound effects on the ability of the person to care for themselves and also participate in activities of daily living. Stroke gait rehabilitation is designed to help the affected person adapt or recover from their injury, with the desired mechanism behind rehabilitation being neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity can be described as a learning mechanism which can include a functional reorganisation or rewiring of brain areas. Of the many methods of gait rehabilitation, the use of exoskeletons is increasing in popularity even though evidence suggests that it delivers, at best, equivalent results to other methods. That said, although the goal of rehabilitation is a neuroplastic response, all methods only target this response implicitly, that is the rehabilitation tries to achieve a neuroplastic response without exactly knowing what it will be. This provides the basis for introducing the project, which is the development of a proof of concept prototype for the novel control of a unilateral exoskeleton for post stroke gait rehabilitation. This controller is designed to interface with an exoskeleton style device, however unlike other methods of gait rehabilitation which seek an implicit neuroplastic response, the design of this controller is such that it will target an explicit response. The intended response, as proposed by the project’s clients, is based on known principles of neuroplasticity. Added benefits of the proposed control mechanism include introducing clients to rehabilitation sooner and allowing the practice of gait like motion without the need to engage in gait. Using these principles and a design process sensitive to the abilities of stroke patients, the proof of concept controller was developed which faithfully demonstrates the aspect of novel control. The work contained within provides a strong platform for further prototype development and possible verification of the rehabilitation principles.

Keywords: Stroke, gait, rehab, rehabilitation, exoskeleton, neuroplastic, neuroplasticity
Subject: Engineering thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2016
School: School of Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematics
Supervisor: David Hobbs