Application of Robotic and Mechatronic Systems to Neurorehabilitation
Part of book or chapter of book
Carrozza, Maria Chiara
Robotic and mechatronic systems presented in this chapter are increasingly used in hospitals and rehabilitation centres as technological tools for the clinical practice. These systems are used to administer intensive and prolonged treatments aimed at achieving the functional recovery of people affected by neurological impairments, in sub-acute and chronic stage, with a potential improvement of the cost/effectiveness ratio. They can evaluate the effects of rehabilitation treatments in a quantitative way and contribute to increase the knowledge of motor control and learning mechanisms in humans. Such systems have to be designed according to the ever-increasing knowledge in the neurophysiologic field, in order to improve the motor function through stimulating, entertaining exercises, able to promote patientsâ€™ motivation. The integrated use of robotic system for rehabilitation, mechatronic systems for the movement analysis and functional assessment and advanced brain imaging techniques enables to analyse the mechanisms of motor recovery for each patient and define customized rehabilitation treatments, towards an optimization of hospitalizationâ€™s period and healthcare resources (Figure 7). Furthermore, the development of low-cost robotic systems together with safe, reliable and robust telecommunications networks can also contribute to the validation of innovative telerehabilitation protocols, leading to potential high advantages: (i) to continue the rehabilitation process at home or resident care (for the patient); (ii) to reduce the costs associated with hospitalization and rehabilitation at the hospital (for the healthcare system). Finally, the collaboration between physiatrists, therapists, patients and engineers, which has already shown important clinical and scientific results, has to be strengthened through research projects and specific programmes, at local and national level, as it is essential to guide the development of safe and effective technological systems for a patient-oriented robotics aimed at improving the quality of life of disabled persons.