A better understanding of the neural substrates that underlie motor recovery after neurological impairments (such as stroke and spinal cord injury) has led to the development of innovative rehabilitation strategies and tools that incorporate key elements of motor skill re-learning such as intensive motor training involving goal-oriented repeated movements.
Robotic devices for the upper limb and gait are increasingly used in rehabilitation: several studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of these devices in reducing motor impairments, but only limited evidence has been found on the improvement of upper limb and gait function so far.
Other studies have investigated the effects of combined approaches that target muscle function (e.g., functional electrical stimulation), modulate neural activity (e.g., noninvasive brain stimulation) and enhance motivation (e.g., Virtual Reality) in an attempt to enhance the benefits of robot-assisted training.
During the talk an overview of the current status of robot-assisted therapies and combined treatments will be discussed together with an analysis of the rationale behind them. Finally the clinical and bioengineering challenges of the next decade will be presented.