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Can exoskeleton training improve balance and postural control?

Researcher(s): Dr. Tania Lam

The purpose of this study is to determine the effect of overground exoskeleton-assisted gait training on the recruitment and training of muscles used in postural control. There are two parts to this study:

In Part 1 of the study, we hope to determine how different exoskeletons including the Lokomat and Ekso engage your abdominal muscles. You will be asked to come into the Human Locomotion Lab at ICORD where you will be trained on how to use each of these robotic devices while we will monitor your abdominal activity using EMG surface electrodes. Part 1 of this study involves 6 sessions.

In Part 2 of the study, we hope to determine how training on either the Lokomat or Ekso improves your seated balance and other similar functional abilities. You will be asked to come into the Human Locomotion at ICORD where you till be trained on both devices; you will receive between 10-20 training sessions for each exoskeleton. Each week you will be tested on your seated balance to monitor for changes and/or improvement. This second part of the study lasts 10-12 weeks.

You can choose to participate in Part 1 and/or Part 2 of this study.

Why you might want to participate in this study:

Participating in this study will provide you with the opportunity to use exciting robotic technology such as the Lokomat and Ekso. You might also learn more about your seated balance ability and your postural control with respect to your trunk. We hope that the results from this study may go on to inform therapists and other rehabilitation professionals about how best to train seated balance and other functional abilities.

Research participant Kyle Gieni is learning to use the Ekso suit.

If you are an adult with SCI, you may be able to participate in this study if:

  • you are 19-65 years old
  • you have had an SCI at least 6 months ago above T6
  • you have enough strength in your arms (motor-complete below C7 or motor-incomplete with good upper limb strength)
  • you use independent sitting as part of your typical daily activities
  • you are able to tolerate an upright posture for 30 minutes (with or without breaks)
  • you are in good general health

If you are an able-bodied adult you may be able to participate in this study if:

  • you are 19-65 years old
  • you are in good general health and able to stand without difficulty

You should not participate in this study if any of the following applies to you:

  • you are under 19 years of age or over 65 years of age
  • you were not able to walk before you had your injury
  • you have another neurological condition that affects your ability to move
  • you have a medical condition that prevents you from exercising (e.g. heart problem, muscle pain, broken or weak bones)
  • you have poor range of motion in the legs that prevent you from using the Ekso or Lokomat
  • you are not within the capacity limits of the robotic exoskeletons (height 5’2” – 6’2” and weight less than 220lbs)
  • you are pregnant
  • you are unable to provide consent and/or follow instructions

Time required for participation:

For Part 1, participants will be asked to complete 4-6 sessions in the Human Locomotion Lab at ICORD over the course of 2 weeks (approximately 9-13 hours total). For Part 2, participants will be asked to complete 30 sessions in the Human Locomotion Lab at ICORD over the course of 10-12 weeks.

Participants will be provided with an honorarium of $15 (Starbucks gift card).

This study will take place at ICORD.

For more information or to sign up to participate, please contact the study coordinator, Alison Williams by email or call 604-675-8814