Biomechanical mechanisms underlying exosuit-induced improvements in walking economy after stroke
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Citation (published version)J Bae, LN Awad, A Long, K O'Donnell, K Hendron, KG Holt, TD Ellis, CJ Walsh. "Biomechanical mechanisms underlying exosuit-induced improvements in walking economy after stroke." Journal of Experimental Biology,
Stroke-induced hemiparetic gait is characteristically asymmetric and metabolically expensive. Weakness and impaired control of the paretic ankle contribute to reduced forward propulsion and ground clearance—walking subtasks critical for safe and efficient locomotion. Targeted gait interventions that improve paretic ankle function after stroke are therefore warranted. We have developed textile-based, soft wearable robots that transmit mechanical power generated by off-board or body-worn actuators to the paretic ankle using Bowden cables (soft exosuits) and have demonstrated the exosuits can overcome deficits in paretic limb forward propulsion and ground clearance, ultimately reducing the metabolic cost of hemiparetic walking. This study elucidates the biomechanical mechanisms underlying exosuit-induced reductions in metabolic power. We evaluated the relationships between exosuit-induced changes in the body center of mass (COM) power generated by each limb, individual joint powers, and metabolic power. Compared to walking with an exosuit unpowered, exosuit assistance produced more symmetrical COM power generation during the critical period of the step-to-step transition (22.4±6.4% more symmetric). Changes in individual limb COM power were related to changes in paretic (R2= 0.83, P= 0.004) and nonparetic (R2= 0.73, P= 0.014) ankle power. Interestingly, despite the exosuit providing direct assistance to only the paretic limb, changes in metabolic power were related to changes in nonparetic limb COM power (R2= 0.80, P= 0.007), not paretic limb COM power (P> 0.05). These findings provide a fundamental understanding of how individuals poststroke interact with an exosuit to reduce the metabolic cost of hemiparetic walking.