Robotic assistance devices are a major field of research right now. The use of robots to provide guidance and resistance to people with disabilities can help them retrain their muscles to, one day, walk without assistance. But much more research is needed.
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Cerebral Palsy News Today wrote about a pilot study on a type of robotic exoskeleton that pushes back against the user to retrain walking. The hypothesis is that strength therapy alone may not be enough to fix gait problems with children in CP. They need to be strengthened through activities that naturally use them, like walking.
The researchers designed their device to test the theory. It tracks the gait of the wearer and provides resistance when stepping forward. This makes it harder to walk and, in theory, strengthens the muscles in the right way.
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Six volunteers ages 12-17 tested the device in 20-minute sessions four to five times. The device showed that the contraction of the muscle on the back of the leg increased significantly. However, they also found a decrease of activity in the opposing muscle. This is significant because children with CP usually have both sides too contracted.
More research is needed into both functional exercises and in how adaptive resistance devices like these can be used to help children with CP.