One of the major problems with walking encountered by patients with spastic hemiplegia is diminished toe clearance due to spasticity of their leg muscles. To improve their walking, a specialized robot assist for ankle movements (RE-Gait) has been utilized. The present study examined the neurophysiological effects whether spinal cord reciprocal Ia inhibition (RI) in the leg was altered by using RE-Gait. Sixteen patients with a clinical diagnosis of stroke were divided into the two groups, RE-Gait walking group (Group R) and normal (controlled) walking group (Group C). In each group, they walked on a flat floor for 15 min with or without RE-Gait. The depression of soleus (Sol) H-reflexes conditioned by common peroneal nerve stimuli with the conditioning-test (C-T) intervals of 1, 2, 3, and 4 ms were assessed before and immediately after each walking session. After the intervention, the LSM (SE) of Sol H-reflex amplitude with 1, 2 and 3 ms C-T interval conditions were significantly decreased in group R (1 ms: 88.15 (4.60), 2 ms: 86.37 (4.60), 3 ms: 89.68 (4.62)) compared to group C (1 ms: 105.57 (4.56), 2 ms: 100.89 (4.58), 3 ms: 107.72 (4.58)) [1 ms: p = 0.012, 2 ms: p = 0.035, 3 ms: p = 0.011]. Walking assistive robot that targets ankle movements might be a new rehabilitation tool for regulating spinal cord excitability.
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