Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto is planning the first ever clinical trial of robot-assisted therapy for children with cerebral palsy.
The two-and-a-half year study is slated to start in June, and it will investigate the use of robot-assistive technology for gait training. Researchers hope to find the best practices for using robot-assisted therapy with individuals of varying severity levels of cerebral palsy, a congenital motor condition.
The machine, called a Lokomat Pro, has been used for adults, but this machine in Toronto is the first one for pediatric use. It works by helping a child stand upright, and the robotics move the child’s legs to simulate normal walking patterns. The machine also includes a virtual reality screen, so children can choose a character to walk in sync with them. Research has shown that engagement in walking and gait training helps stimulate and train the muscles for motor learning. The Lokomat works well by also providing biofeedback and motivation for the child to engage in walking.
The Toronto study will involve 20 children ages four to 12. They will go through eight weeks of Lokomat training, take six weeks rest, followed by eight weeks of physical therapy. The purpose of this model is to investigate the efficacy of each intervention on the subjects. The children have a wide range of abilities; some are able to walk with the use of canes and crutches, while others use wheelchairs. Researchers hope this study will also investigate the improvement of gross motor functioning across the severity spectrum of cerebral palsy.
Photo by Doug Nicholson
Resource: Inside Toronto