Summer 2019 – 497-217: Innovations in Neuromuscular & Stroke Rehabilitation

Meeting Day/Time
Session A (5/20 to 6/27) Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:00 am to 1:10 pm
Mahesh Krishnamurthy (ECE) (
Appropriate Majors
All interested students are welcome.

Problem or Issue. The broad purpose of this IPRO project is to rethink available 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 treatment. There is a huge need for innovations in this area, some of which have been identified in this article:

Since the 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 through the use of lighter, inexpensive (yet sturdy) materials for design, as well as integration of electromechanical actuators and user feedback options that are modular and can easily be retrofitted to devices currently in the market.

Objective. This IPRO project will serve stroke patients and people with specific neuropathies that require significant physical therapy and rehabilitation. The goals of this IPRO are to look at several conditions listed below that can apply technology and creative design concepts to improve quality of life:

  • 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 struggling 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.
  • Since tests like the electromyogram (EMG) can be very expensive and difficult to schedule, there is a need for simpler devices to test nerve conduction velocities (NCV) with reasonable accuracy to monitor progress in someone’s condition and know when medical help is needed.

Approach. This IPRO project is fundamentally interdisciplinary. Since the stakeholders are families of the patient and not just those that are affected by these conditions, any innovation in this area requires input from multiple areas of engineering (electrical, computer, biomedical, mechanical, etc.); computer science; psychology; design; business and psychology. 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. The outcome of this IPRO project should be prototype aids that allow affected patients to undertake specified physical therapy (especially outside of appointed PT and rehab hours), independently without significant intervention and as they fulfill their daily activities.

The IPRO project will focus on analysis and innovation as the main goal. A perfect example for the type of innovation we will attempt would be the Google spoon (, which helps people with significant hand tremors or the power assist wheelchair designed at Illinois Tech ( Students from various disciplines will have an opportunity to think outside the box, work in small teams and putting their ideas into practice.

There are four key aspects in physical therapy and rehabilitation that will be explored in this IPRO project:

  • User interface and feedback solutions:
    1. How can users identify whether the exercise/activity they are doing is able to activate the correct muscle group?
    2. How can they avoid activities that exacerbate the problem?
    3. User interface for mobility solutions for people with limited physical mobility
  • Innovative assistive technologies for physical therapy
    1. Age-specific squat assist devices
    2. Proximal and distal muscle supporting technology
    3. Possible indicators/notifications for overtired muscles
  • Personal mobility and aids for daily living
    1. Power assist wheelchairs (including aspects of laying down to sitting up) combining mobility and muscle training
    2. Cost-efficient standers and gait trainers
    3. Daily aids such as grippers and actuators to aid specific muscle groups.
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