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A previous study from our laboratory showed that when soleus electromyography was used to control the amount of plantar flexion assistance from a robotic ankle exoskeleton, subjects significantly reduced their soleus activity to quickly return to normal gait kinematics. We speculated that subjects were primarily responding to the local mechanical assistance of the exoskeleton rather than directly attempting to reduce exoskeleton mechanical power via decreases in soleus activity. To test this observation we studied ten healthy subjects walking on a treadmill at 1.25 m/s while wearing a robotic exoskeleton proportionally controlled by medial gastrocnemius activation. We hypothesized that subjects would primarily decrease soleus activity due to its synergistic mechanics with the exoskeleton. Subjects decreased medial gastrocnemius recruitment by 12% (p < 0.05) but decreased soleus recruitment by 27% (p < 0.05). In agreement with our hypothesis, the primary reduction in muscle activity was not for the control muscle (medial gastrocnemius) but for the anatomical synergist to the exoskeleton (soleus). These findings indicate that anatomical morphology needs to be considered carefully when designing software and hardware for robotic exoskeletons.
Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering, IEEE Transactions on (Volume:17 , Issue: 1 )
Date of Publication: Feb. 2009