Robot training of upper limb in multiple sclerosis: Comparing protocols with or withoutmanipulative task components

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In this pilot study, we compared two protocols for robot-based rehabilitation of upper limb in multiple sclerosis (MS): a protocol involving reaching tasks (RT) requiring arm transport only and a protocol requiring both objects' reaching and manipulation (RMT). Twenty-two MS subjects were assigned to RT or RMT group. Both protocols consisted of eight sessions. During RT training, subjects moved the handle of a planar robotic manipulandum toward circular targets displayed on a screen. RMT protocol required patients to reach and manipulate real objects, by moving the robotic arm equipped with a handle which left the hand free for distal tasks. In both trainings, the robot generated resistive and perturbing forces. Subjects were evaluated with clinical and instrumental tests. The results confirmed that MS patients maintained the ability to adapt to the robot-generated forces and that the rate of motor learning increased across sessions. Robot-therapy significantly reduced arm tremor and improved arm kinematics and functional ability. Compared to RT, RMT protocol induced a significantly larger improvement in movements involving grasp (improvement in Grasp ARAT sub-score: RMT 77.4%, RT 29.5%, p=0.035) but not precision grip. Future studies are needed to evaluate if longer trainings and the use of robotic handles would significantly improve also fine manipulation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6202778
Pages (from-to)351-360
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Motor learning
  • multiple sclerosis
  • robot-therapy
  • upper limb function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Medicine(all)


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