Design strategies to improve patient motivation during robot-aided rehabilitation

Roberto Colombo, Fabrizio Pisano, Alessandra Mazzone, Carmen Delconte, Silvestro Micera, M. Chiara Carrozza, Paolo Dario, Giuseppe Minuco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. Motivation is an important factor in rehabilitation and frequently used as a determinant of rehabilitation outcome. Several factors can influence patient motivation and so improve exercise adherence. This paper presents the design of two robot devices for use in the rehabilitation of upper limb movements, that can motivate patients during the execution of the assigned motor tasks by enhancing the gaming aspects of rehabilitation. In addition, a regular review of the obtained performance can reinforce in patients' minds the importance of exercising and encourage them to continue, so improving their motivation and consequently adherence to the program. In view of this, we also developed an evaluation metric that could characterize the rate of improvement and quantify the changes in the obtained performance. Methods. Two groups (G1, n = 8 and G2, n = 12) of patients with chronic stroke were enrolled in a 3-week rehabilitation program including standard physical therapy (45 min. daily) plus treatment by means of robot devices (40 min., twice daily) respectively for wrist (G1) and elbow-shoulder movements (G2). Both groups were evaluated by means of standard clinical assessment scales and the new robot measured evaluation metric. Patients' motivation was assessed in 9/12 G2 patients by means of the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory (IMI) questionnaire. Results. Both groups reduced their motor deficit and showed a significant improvement in clinical scales and the robot measured parameters. The IMI assessed in G2 patients showed high scores for interest, usefulness and importance subscales and low values for tension and pain subscales. Conclusion. Thanks to the design features of the two robot devices the therapist could easily adapt training to the individual by selecting different difficulty levels of the motor task tailored to each patient's disability. The gaming aspects incorporated in the two rehabilitation robots helped maintain patients' interest high during execution of the assigned tasks by providing feedback on performance. The evaluation metric gave a precise measure of patients' performance and thus provides a tool to help therapists promote patient motivation and hence adherence to the training program.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3
JournalJournal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation
Publication statusPublished - 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Health Informatics


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