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Exoskeleton Helping Stroke Victims Move

September 23, 2011 by  

ENSCHEDE, Netherlands, Sept. 23 (UPI) — Scientists and engineers in the Netherlands say their prototype “robot legs” could improve the movement and walking of stoke victims.

Developed by researchers at the University of Twente in Enschede, the lower-extremity powered exoskeleton, dubbed LOPES, aims to train a patient’s body and mind to recover a more natural gait, the BBC reported Friday.

It can take over all the walking for the patient, engineers said, or it can offer selected support for a single leg or with a single element of the walking process.

“For instance, some people cannot lift their foot up appropriately,” said researcher Edwin van Asseldonk, describing a symptom known as drop foot. “What this device does is it senses that the foot is not lifting properly.

“It then compares it with a reference pattern and then exerts a force or torque to assist that subject in doing it.”

Petra Hes, who suffered a stroke at the age of just 17, is helping test the device.

After years of physiotherapy, she still suffers from drop foot and cannot lift and flex her left foot as she once did or even remember how to do it.

In enabling her to move her left leg as it should move, the device operates as a memory aid, researchers say

“I got a eureka moment because I felt an old feeling of how to walk normally,” she said of her first time using LOPES.

“That push-up I felt and my knee lifting it is what I’ve forgotten. I couldn’t reproduce it myself so I had to feel it again.”

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