Robot Assisted Rehabilitation - Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)


The objective of this research effort is to develop a rehabilitation robot and associated controllers to be used in both therapy and evaluation of subjects with incomplete spinal-cord injuries. We are working in collaboration with Dr. Gerard Francisco and Dr. Nuray Yozbatiran of TIRR-Memorial Hermann and UTHealth.

Interest in the rehabilitation applications for robots has been increasing (Erlandson 1992, Reinkensmeyer et al. 1996, Reinkensmeyer et al. 2000).Considering their many advantages -such as allowing repeability and scalability and safety- it can be said that  rehabilitation robots are the most efficient and effective means to help SCI patients.

We have developed the RiceWrist exoskeleton robot, which features a revolute joint at the elbow, a revolute joint at the forearm and a 3-RPS (revolute-prismatic-spherical) parallel mechanism at the wrist part. Additionally, we have the MAHI-Exo-II robot installed at the TIRR Motor Recovery Lab. This robot extends the RiceWrist to include elbow flexion-extension capabilities. The hardware demonstrated improved backdrivability, torque output, and ergonomic adjustability compared to our prior versions.

There are four current research threads that are active:

  • Development of an assist-as-needed controller to improve the engagment of the participant and provide continual challenge
  • Exploration of a serial kinematic design of the Ricewrist that allows greater range of motion, especially for wrist flexion-extension and radial-ulnar deviation
  • Instrumentation of a new handle that incorporates force sensors for measuring grip strength
  • Analysis of clinical data currently being collected at TIRR-Memorial Hermann, to develop robotic measures of motor impairment relevant to SCI, and to assess the efficacy of the MAHI-Exo-II for rehabilitation after incomlete SCI