Potential of robots as next-generation technology for clinical assessment of neurological disorders and upper-limb therapy

J Rehabil Res Dev. 2011;48(4):335-53. doi: 10.1682/jrrd.2010.04.0057.


Robotic technologies have profoundly affected the identification of fundamental properties of brain function. This success is attributable to robots being able to control the position of or forces applied to limbs, and their inherent ability to easily, objectively, and reliably quantify sensorimotor behavior. Our general hypothesis is that these same attributes make robotic technologies ideal for clinically assessing sensory, motor, and cognitive impairments in stroke and other neurological disorders. Further, they provide opportunities for novel therapeutic strategies. The present opinionated review describes how robotic technologies combined with virtual/augmented reality systems can support a broad range of behavioral tasks to objectively quantify brain function. This information could potentially be used to provide more accurate diagnostic and prognostic information than is available from current clinical assessment techniques. The review also highlights the potential benefits of robots to provide upper-limb therapy. Although the capital cost of these technologies is substantial, it pales in comparison with the potential cost reductions to the overall healthcare system that improved assessment and therapeutic interventions offer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Paresis / rehabilitation*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / instrumentation*
  • Recovery of Function
  • Robotics / trends*
  • Stroke / diagnosis*
  • Stroke Rehabilitation*
  • Upper Extremity / physiology
  • Upper Extremity / physiopathology