A team of multiple sclerosis (MS) experts at Kessler Foundation led the first pilot randomized controlled trial of robotic-exoskeleton assisted exercise rehabilitation (REAER) effects on mobility, cognition, and brain connectivity in people with substantial MS-related disability.
Their results showed that REAER is likely an effective intervention, and is a promising therapy for improving the lives of those with MS.
In this pilot study of 10 participants with significant MS-related neurological disability, researchers explored the use of robotic exoskeletons to manage symptoms. Rehabilitation exercise using robotic exoskeletons is a relatively new approach that enables participants to walk over-ground in a progressive regimen that involves close engagement with a therapist.
The Foundation has dedicated a Ekso NR to MS studies to facilitate further research in this area.
As compared to conventional gait training, REAER allows participants to walk at volumes needed to realize functional adaptations -- via vigorous neurophysiological demands -- that lead to improved cognition and mobility. Effects on brain activity patterns were studied using the functional MRI capabilities of the Rocco Ortenzio Neuroimaging Center at Kessler Foundation.
Investigators compared participants' improvement after four weeks of REAER vs four weeks of conventional gait training, looking at functional mobility, walking endurance, cognitive processing speed, and brain connectivity.
The results were positive: Relative to conventional gait training, four weeks of REAER was associated with large improvements in functional mobility, cognitive processing speed, and brain connectivity outcomes, most significantly between the thalamus and ventromedial prefrontal cortex .