The Catholic University of America

Rehabilitation Robotics

Over the last decade, the introduction of robotic technologies into rehabilitation settings has progressed from concept to reality. Numerous studies have demonstrated the efficacy and advantages of rehabilitation robots for assessing and treating motor impairments in both the upper and lower extremities. We are investigating the efficacy of robotic devices in improving motor function and health and well-being in individuals with motor impairments of the upper and lower extremities

Current Projects

Over-ground gait training with a novel body-weight support system - We are investigating the effectiveness of ZeroG in improving walking ability in acute stroke subjects. Hand EXOskeleton Rehabilitation Robot (HEXORR) - HEXORR is currently in clinical trials for hand rehabilitation after stroke.
ARMin: upper extremity robotic therapy - The ARMin robot is being tested in clinical populations including stroke and TBI.  

Hand Spring Operated Movement Enhancer (HandSOME) - This orthotic is currently in initial stroke subject testing. 



Over-ground gait training with a novel dynamic body-weight support system

The overall goal of the study is to determine whether intensive, over-ground gait training using a novel dynamic body-weight support system leads to greater improvements in walking ability than conventional physical therapy in individuals with acute stroke.

The subject sample consists of sixty individuals with acute stroke. Subjects are randomly assigned to one of two groups. Group (1) receives two hours of conventional physical therapy, one hour performed by their primary physical therapist as part of their normal inpatient physical therapy program (Conventional physical therapy consist of; leg strengthening, balance, neuro muscular reeducation and gait training based on their individual impairments while working towards weekly task-specific goals) and a second hour per day performed by a research physical therapist for gait-specific therapy. Group(2) receives one hour of conventional physical therapy as described above with an additional hour per day of gait training on the ZeroG dynamic body-weight support system with a research physical therapist. ZeroG is a new over-ground body-weight support system that allows individuals with gait disorders to practice walking over smooth or uneven surfaces, up and down stairs, and around curved walkways in a safe, controlled manner. All subjects are trained 5 days per week for 2 weeks while they are inpatients at the National Rehabilitation Hospital.

Improvements in walking ability and lower limb motor function are evaluated at weeks 0, 2, and 14 and include the speed, level of walking assistance, endurance, balance, motor function, functional ambulation, and spasticity. Using these criteria, we will determine whether adding ZeroG gait training to in-patient therapeutic programs facilitates the recovery of stable walking patterns in acute stroke beyond the gains experienced using conventional gait training intervention.
PERSONNEL J. Hidler, K. Brady, D. Nichols, S. Ryerson, C. Hosler-Smyth, T. Nef




HEXORR: Hand EXOskeleton Rehabilitation Robot

Hemiparetic individuals have great difficulty controlling wrist and hand movements. These impairments can hinder one?s able to perform many typical activities of daily life. This project encompasses the design, development and clinical testing of a robotic exoskeleton for hand therapy. With novel therapy modes, this exoskeleton will help patients increase range of motion, grip strength and overall fine motor control of the hand. Many therapy modes will be investigated to determine an optimal rehabilitation strategy. Potential therapy methods include EMG control and force control. To enhance patient motivation and participation, virtual reality therapy games will be incorporated into therapy sessions. Not only will this exoskeleton be able to provide therapy, it will also serve as an assessment tool. Force and motion sensors will track the progress of each patient's recovery throughout the therapy session. With this exoskeleton, we hope to not only increase hand therapy benefits, but also to collect and analyze quantitative data to gain further incite into this debilitating impairment.
PERSONNEL C. Schabowsky, S.B. Godfrey, i Black, and P.S. Lum




ARMin: Upper Extremity Robotic Therapy


The overall goal of the study is to measure the effectiveness of the ARMin III robot for movement therapy following stroke. The ARMin III robot was developed by Dr. Robert Riener and Dr. Tobias Nef at the ETH in Zürich and is one of the most advanced arm robots available today. It has 6 active degrees-of-freedom, which will allow for practice of a wide range of realistic arm movements in even severely impaired subjects. The ARMin has undergone pilot clinical testing in brain injured subjects, and has several modes of passive and active assisted movement. It also provides a virtual environment to motivate the exercises in the form of simple games or ADL tasks.

PERSONNEL E.B. Brokaw, T.M. Murray, T. Nef, and P.S. Lum
FUNDING SOURCE NRH, Swiss National Science Foundation, Hans-Eggenberger Foundation




  HandSOME: Hand Spring Operated Movement Enhancer


The HandSOME device was designed to compensate for finger flexor hypertonia after stroke, allowing the stroke patient to regain functional grasp. The device is currently being tested by chronic stroke subjects.

PERSONNEL  E.B. Brokaw, iian Black, and P.S. Lum
FUNDING SOURCE   U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command