BACKGROUND: To accommodate training for unilaterally affected patients (e.g. stroke), the Lokomat (a popular robotic exoskeleton-based gait trainer) provides the possibility to set the amount of movement guidance for each leg independently. Given the interlimb couplings, such asymmetrical settings may result in complex effects, in which ipsilateral activity co-depends on the amount of guidance offered to the contralateral leg. To test this idea, the effect of asymmetrical guidance on muscle activity was explored.
METHODS: 15 healthy participants walked in the Lokomat at two speeds (1 and 2 km/h) and guidance levels (30% and 100%), during symmetrical (both legs receiving 30% or 100% guidance) and asymmetrical conditions (one leg receiving 30% and the other 100% guidance) resulting in eight unique conditions. Activity of the right leg was recorded from Erector Spinae, Gluteus Medius, Biceps Femoris, Semitendinosus, Vastus Medialis, Rectus Femoris, Medial Gastrocnemius and Tibialis Anterior. Statistical Parametric Mapping was used to assess whether ipsilateral muscle activity depended on guidance settings for the contralateral leg.
RESULTS: Muscle output amplitude not only depended on ipsilateral guidance settings, but also on the amount of guidance provided to the contralateral leg. More specifically, when the contralateral leg received less guidance, ipsilateral activity of Gluteus Medius and Medial Gastrocnemius increased during stance. Conversely, when the contralateral leg received more guidance, ipsilateral muscle activity for these muscles decreased. These effects were specifically observed at 1 km/h, but not at 2 km/h.
CONCLUSIONS: This is the first study of asymmetrical guidance on muscle activity in the Lokomat, which shows that ipsilateral activity co-depends on the amount of contralateral guidance. In therapy, these properties may be exploited e.g. to promote active contributions by the more affected leg. Therefore, the present results urge further research on the use of asymmetrical guidance in patient groups targeted by Lokomat training.
- POSTSTROKE HEMIPARESIS
- AFFERENT INPUT