Skip to Main Content
The control of human walking can be temporarily modified by applying forces to the leg. To study the neural mechanisms underlying this adaptive capacity, a device delivering controlled forces and high-velocity displacements to the ankle was designed. A new solution, involving a closed circuit hydraulic system composed of two cylinders (master-slave) mutually connected by hoses and controlled by an electric motor was preferred over classical mechanical/electrical approaches. The slave cylinder delivers desired torques to the ankle using a light weight, custom-designed ankle-foot orthosis. This electrohydraulic orthosis (EHO) can produce several types of force fields during walking, including constant, position-dependent, and phase-dependent. With phase-dependent force fields, active torque cancellation maintains low-residual torques (les1.85 Nm root mean square) outside of the zone of force application for walking speeds ranging from 0.2 to 4.5 km/h. Rapid ankle stretches/unloads (>200deg/s) can also be produced alone or during force field application, and elicited proprioceptive reflexes in ankle muscles. In conclusion, the EHO is capable of delivering controlled force fields and of activating proprioceptive reflexes during human walking. It will provide the flexibility needed to test the adaptability of healthy and pathological gait control, and to address some of its underlying neural mechanisms.