We have developed a robotic device (e.g. the rat stepper) that can be used to impose programmed forces on the hindlimbs of rats during stepping. In the present paper we describe initial experiments using this robotic device to determine the feasibility of robotically assisted locomotor training in complete spinally transected adult rats. The present results show that using the robots to increase the amount of load during stance by applying a downward force on the ankle improved lift during swing. The trajectory pattern during swing was also improved when the robot arms were programmed to move the ankle in a path that approximated the normal swing trajectory. These results suggest that critical elements for successful training of hindlimb stepping in spinal cord injured rats can be implemented rigorously and evaluated using the rat stepper. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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