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'Anklebot' helps determine ankle stiffness
Date:10/24/2013

tested the Anklebot on 10 healthy volunteers to characterize the normal mechanics of the joint.

Volunteers were seated and outfitted with the robot, as well as surface electrodes attached to the ankle's four major muscles. The robot was connected to a video display with a pixelated bar that moved up and down, depending on muscle activity. Each volunteer was asked to activate a specific muscle for example, to lift the foot toe-up and maintain that activity at a target level, indicated by the video bar. In response, the robot pushed back against the ankle movement, as volunteers were told not to resist the robot's force.

The researchers recorded each muscle's activity in response to the robot's opposing force, and plotted the results on a graph. They found that in general, the ankle was stiffest when toe-up or toe-down, while less stiff from side to side. When turning inward, the ankle was least stiff a finding that suggests this direction of movement is most vulnerable to injury.

Understanding the mechanics of the ankle in healthy subjects may help therapists identify abnormalities in patients with motor disorders. Hogan adds that characterizing ankle stiffness may also be useful in designing safer footwear a field he is curious to explore.

"For example," Hogan says, "could we make aesthetically pleasing high heels that are stiffer in the inversion/eversion [side to side] direction? What is that effect, and is it worth doing? It's an interesting question."

For now, the team will continue its work in rehabilitation, using the Anklebot to train patients to walk.


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Contact: Sarah McDonnell
s_mcd@mit.edu
617-253-8923
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert  

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