Summer 2017 – 497-217: Innovating Assistive Technology Solutions for Neuromuscular Rehabilitation & Physical Therapy

B (June 5 to July 29)
Meeting Day(s)/Time
Tuesdays/Thursdays from 10:00 am to 12:25 pm
Mahesh Krishnamurthy (ECE) (
Appropriate Majors
Technological Innovation

The goal of this IPRO project is to reimagine assistive technologies for people with neuromuscular issues, such as Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, Guillain Barre Syndrome, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP) and Muscular Dystrophy. In addition to drug-based treatments, adults and children affected by any of these conditions undergo substantial physical therapy and rehabilitative treatments for managing their condition as they work toward recovery and a sustaining level of wellness and daily functioning. There is a huge need for innovations in this area, some of which have been identified in this article:

Since a majority of these assistive technologies are billed through insurance, they are extremely cost-prohibitive for anyone that does not have adequate coverage. For example, a sophisticated gait trainer for a child with developmental delays (delay in walking) can be over $5,000. However, approval for such devices is subject to a diagnosis that identifies a clear need for each device. This could leave several users unable to upgrade or even purchase them without significant financial assistance.

This IPRO project will investigate if and how designs can be simplified and made less expensively through the use of lighter, inexpensive (yet sturdy) materials, using electromechanical actuators and user feedback options that are modular and can easily be integrated into devices currently in the market, etc. The primary focus of the IPRO team will be on stroke patients and people with specific neuropathies that require significant physical therapy and rehabilitation. Opportunity areas that can improve quality of life include the following:

  • Assistive technologies for children affected by neuropathies or myopathies such as spinal muscular atrophy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis or other autoimmune conditions;
  • After being discharged from the hospital post-stroke, patients who need assistance and training because they struggle with exercises and physical rehabilitation;
  • Assistive technologies to help children (or adults) that are going through rehabilitation to help them exercise properly, such as a gripper, or a squat assist;
  • Display-based feedback for the user or the therapist to make sure that they are working the correct set of muscles with reasonable accuracy. This is particularly relevant when the person affected needs to work out independently without professional supervision; and
  • Since tests such as electromyogram (EMG) can be very expensive and difficult to schedule, simpler devices are needed to test nerve conduction velocities (NCV) with reasonable accuracy to identify improvements in a person’s condition or identify when to seek medical help.

Any innovation in this area requires input from multiple areas of engineering (electrical, computer, biomedical, mechanical, etc.), computer science, psychology, design, business, psychology and pre-med majors. The objective is to understand the specific challenges faced by people affected by these conditions and invent assistive technologies to provide users with independence and improved quality of life. Outcome of this IPRO should be aids that allow them to carry out targeted physical therapy (especially outside of appointed PT and rehab hours), independently function without significant intervention and carry out their daily activities. Examples of the type of innovation the IPRO team will strive for are the Google spoon (, which helps people with significant hand tremors, and the power assist wheelchair designed at Illinois Tech (

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