Effects of Impedance Reduction of a Robot for Wrist Rehabilitation on Human Motor Strategies in Healthy Subjects during Pointing Tasks

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Studies on human motor control demonstrated the existence of simplifying strategies (namely 'Donders' law') adopted to deal with kinematically redundant motor tasks. In recent research we showed that Donders' law also holds for the human wrist during pointing tasks and that it is heavily perturbed when interacting with a highly back-drivable state-of-the-art rehabilitation robot. We hypothesized that this depends on the excessive mechanical impedance of the pronation/supination (PS) joint of the robot and in this work we analyzed the effects of its reduction. To this end we deployed a basic force control scheme, which minimizes human–robot interaction force. This resulted in a 70% reduction of the inertia in the PS joint, and in decrease of 81 and 78% of the interaction torques during 1- and 3-d.o.f. tasks. To assess the effects on human motor strategies, pointing tasks were performed by three subjects with a lightweight handheld device, interacting with the robot using its standard PD control (setting impedance to zero) and with the force-controlled robot. We quantified Donders' law as two-dimensional surfaces in the three-dimensional configuration space of rotations. Results revealed that the subject-specific features of Donders' surfaces reappeared after the reduction of robot impedance obtained via the force control.


Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/016918611X558270

Affiliations: 1: Laboratory of Biomedical Robotics and Biomicrosystems, School of Biomedical Engineering, Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma, Via Álvaro del Portillo, 21-00128 Rome, Italy 2: School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, 50 Nanyang Avenue, Singapore

Publication date: March 1, 2011

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