skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on July 15, 2023

Title: Distinct Kinematic and Neuromuscular Activation Strategies During Quiet Stance and in Response to Postural Perturbations in Healthy Individuals Fitted With and Without a Lower-Limb Exoskeleton
Many individuals with disabling conditions have difficulty with gait and balance control that may result in a fall. Exoskeletons are becoming an increasingly popular technology to aid in walking. Despite being a significant aid in increasing mobility, little attention has been paid to exoskeleton features to mitigate falls. To develop improved exoskeleton stability, quantitative information regarding how a user reacts to postural challenges while wearing the exoskeleton is needed. Assessing the unique responses of individuals to postural perturbations while wearing an exoskeleton provides critical information necessary to effectively accommodate a variety of individual response patterns. This report provides kinematic and neuromuscular data obtained from seven healthy, college-aged individuals during posterior support surface translations with and without wearing a lower limb exoskeleton. A 2-min, static baseline standing trial was also obtained. Outcome measures included a variety of 0 dimensional (OD) measures such as center of pressure (COP) RMS, peak amplitude, velocities, pathlength, and electromyographic (EMG) RMS, and peak amplitudes. These measures were obtained during epochs associated with the response to the perturbations: baseline, response, and recovery. T-tests were used to explore potential statistical differences between the exoskeleton and no exoskeleton conditions. Time series waveforms (1D) of the COP and EMG data more » were also analyzed. Statistical parametric mapping (SPM) was used to evaluate the 1D COP and EMG waveforms obtained during the epochs with and without wearing the exoskeleton. The results indicated that during quiet stance, COP velocity was increased while wearing the exoskeleton, but the magnitude of sway was unchanged. The OD COP measures revealed that wearing the exoskeleton significantly reduced the sway magnitude and velocity in response to the perturbations. There were no systematic effects of wearing the exoskeleton on EMG. SPM analysis revealed that there was a range of individual responses; both behaviorally (COP) and among neuromuscular activation patterns (EMG). Using both the OD and 1D measures provided a more comprehensive representation of how wearing the exoskeleton impacts the responses to posterior perturbations. This study supports a growing body of evidence that exoskeletons must be personalized to meet the specific capabilities and needs of each individual end-user. « less
; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Robotic exoskeletons have the capability to improve community ambulation in aging individuals. These exoskeleton controllers utilize different environmental information such as walking speeds and slope inclines to provide corresponding assistance. Several numerical approaches for estimating this environmental information have been implemented; however, they tend to be limited during dynamic changes. A possible solution is a machine learning model utilizing the user's electromyography (EMG) signals along with mechanical sensor data. We developed a neural network-based walking speed and slope estimator for a powered hip exoskeleton and explored the EMG signal contributions in both static and dynamic settings while wearing the device. We also analyzed the performance of different EMG electrode placements. The resulting machine learning model achieved error rates below 0.08 m/s RMSE and 1.3 RMSE. Our study findings from four able-bodied and two elderly subjects indicate that EMG can improve the performance by reducing the error rate by 14.8% compared to the model using only mechanical sensors. Additionally, results show that using EMG electrode configuration within the exoskeleton interface region is sufficient for the EMG model performance.
  2. Exoskeletons and robots have been used as a common practice to assist and automate rehabilitation exercises. Exoskeleton fitting and alignments are important factors and challenges that need to be addressed for smooth and safe operations and better outcomes. Such challenges often dictate the exoskeleton design approaches. Some focus on simplifying and mimicking human joints (joint-based) while others have a focus on a specific task (task-based), which does not need to align with the corresponding limb joint/s to generate the desired anatomical motion. In this study, the two design approaches are assessed in an elbow flexion-extension task. The muscle responses have been collected and compared with and without the exoskeletons. Based on 6 with no disability participants, the normalized Electromyography (EMG) RMS values are plotted. The plot profiles and magnitudes are used as a base to assess the exoskeleton alignment. For this specific task, the task-based exoskeleton has shown a profile closer to the one without exoskeleton with a relatively identical support as the joint-based one; the latter is evidenced through most subjects’ muscle response magnitudes. This preliminary data has shown a good methodology and insight towards the assessment of exoskeletons, but more human subject data is needed with different taskmore »combinations to further strengthen the findings.« less
  3. People with moderate-to-severe cerebral palsy (CP) have the greatest need for postural control research yet are usually excluded from research due to deficits in sitting ability. We use a support system that allows us to quantify and model postural mechanisms in nonambulatory children with CP. A continuous external bench tilt stimulus was used to evoke trunk postural responses in seven sitting children with CP (ages 2.5 to 13 yr) in several test sessions. Eight healthy adults were also included. Postural sway was analyzed with root mean square (RMS) sway and RMS sway velocity, along with frequency response functions (FRF, gain and phase) and coherence functions across two different stimulus amplitudes. A feedback model (including sensorimotor noise, passive, reflexive, and sensory integration mechanisms) was developed to hypothesize how postural control mechanisms are organized and function. Experimental results showed large RMS sway, FRF gains, and variability compared with adults. Modeling suggested that many subjects with CP adopted “simple” control with major contributions from a passive and reflexive mechanism and only a small contribution from active sensory integration. In contrast, mature trunk postural control includes major contributions from sensory integration and sensory reweighting. Relative to their body size, subjects with CP showed significantly lowermore »damping, three to five times larger corrective torque, and much higher sensorimotor noise compared with the healthy mature system. Results are the first characterization of trunk postural responses and the first attempt at system identification in moderate-to-severe CP, an important step toward developing and evaluating more targeted interventions. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common cause of motor disability in children. People with moderate-to-severe CP are typically nonambulatory and have major impairments in trunk postural control. We present the first systems identification study to investigate postural responses to external stimulus in this population and hypothesize at how the atypical postural control system functions with use of a feedback model. People with moderate-to-severe CP may use a simple control system with significant sensorimotor noise.« less
  4. Epidemiological studies link increased fall risk to obesity in older adults, but the mechanism through which obesity increases falls and fall risks is unknown. This study investigates if obesity (Body Mass Index: BMI>30 kg/m2) influenced gait and standing postural characteristics of community dwelling older adults leading to increased risk of falls. One hundred healthy older adults (age 74.0±7.6 years, range of 56-90 years) living independently in a community participated in this study. Participants' history of falls over the previous two years was recorded, with emphasis on frequency and characteristics of falls. Participants with at least two falls in the prior year were classified as fallers. Each individual was assessed for postural stability during quiet stance and gait stability during 10 meters walking. Fall risk parameters of postural sway (COP area, velocity, path-length) were measured utilizing a standard forceplate coupled with an accelerometer affixed at the sternum. Additionally, parameters of gait stability (walking velocity, double support time, and double support time variability) were assessed utilizing an accelerometer affixed at the participant's sternum. Gait and postural stability analyses indicate that obese older adults who fell have significantly altered gait pattern (longer double support time and greater variability) exhibiting a loss of automaticitymore »in walking and, postural instability as compared to their counterparts (i.e., higher sway area and path length, and higher sway velocity) further increasing the risk of a fall given a perturbation. Body weight/BMI is a risk factor for falls in older adults as measured by gait and postural stability parameters.« less
  5. Abstract Background

    Transfemoral prosthesis users’ high fall rate is related to increased injury risk, medical costs, and fear of falling. Better understanding how stumble conditions (e.g., participant age, prosthesis type, side tripped, and swing phase of perturbation) affect transfemoral prosthesis users could provide insight into response deficiencies and inform fall prevention interventions.


    Six unilateral transfemoral prosthesis users experienced obstacle perturbations to their sound limb in early, mid, and late swing phase. Fall outcome, recovery strategy, and kinematics of each response were recorded to characterize (1) recoveries versus falls for transfemoral prosthesis users and (2) prosthesis user recoveries versus healthy adult recoveries.


    Out of 26 stumbles, 15 resulted in falls with five of six transfemoral prosthesis users falling at least once. By contrast, in a previously published study of seven healthy adults comprising 214 stumbles using the same experimental apparatus, no participants fell. The two oldest prosthesis users fell after every stumble, stumbles in mid swing resulted in the most falls, and prosthesis type was not related to strategy/fall outcomes. Prosthesis users who recovered used the elevating strategy in early swing, lowering strategy in late swing, and elevating or lowering/delayed lowering with hopping in mid swing, but exhibited increased contralateral (prosthetic-side) thighmore »abduction and trunk flexion relative to healthy controls. Falls occurred if the tripped (sound) limb did not reach ample thigh/knee flexion to sufficiently clear the obstacle in the elevating step, or if the prosthetic limb did not facilitate a successful step response after the initial sound-side elevating or lowering step. Such responses generally led to smaller step lengths, less anterior foot positioning, and more forward trunk flexion/flexion velocity in the resulting foot-strikes.


    Introducing training (e.g., muscle strength or task-specific motor skill) and/or modifying assistive devices (e.g., lower-limb prostheses or exoskeletons) may improve responses for transfemoral prosthesis users. Specifically, training or exoskeleton assistance could help facilitate sufficient thigh/knee flexion for elevating; training or prosthesis assistance could provide support-limb counteracting torques to aid in elevating; and training or prosthesis assistance could help initiate and safely complete prosthetic swing.

    « less