In robot assisted gait training, a pattern of human locomotion is executed repetitively with the intention to restore the motor programs associated with walking. Several studies showed that active contribution to the movement is critical for the encoding of motor memory. We propose to use brain monitoring techniques during gait training to encourage active participation in the movement. We investigated the spectral patterns in the electroencephalogram (EEG) that are related to active and passive robot assisted gait. Fourteen healthy participants were considered. Infomax independent component analysis separated the EEG into independent components representing brain, muscle, and eye movement activity, as well as other artifacts. An equivalent current dipole was calculated for each independent component. Independent components were clustered across participants based on their anatomical position and frequency spectra. Four clusters were identified in the sensorimotor cortices that accounted for differences between active and passive walking or showed activity related to the gait cycle. We show that in central midline areas the mu (8-12 Hz) and beta (18-21 Hz) rhythms are suppressed during active compared to passive walking. These changes are statistically significant: mu (F(1, 13)=11.2 p ≤ 0.01) and beta (F(1, 13)=7.7, p ≤ 0.05). We also show that these differences depend on the gait cycle phases. We provide first evidence of modulations of the gamma rhythm in the band 25 to 40 Hz, localized in central midline areas related to the phases of the gait cycle. We observed a trend (F(1, 8)=11.03, p ≤ 0.06) for suppressed low gamma rhythm when comparing active and passive walking. Additionally we found significant suppressions of the mu (F(1, 11)=20.1 p ≤ 0.01), beta (F(1, 11)=11.3 p ≤ 0.05) and gamma (F(1, 11)=4.9 p ≤ 0.05) rhythms near C3 (in the right hand area of the primary motor cortex) during phases of active vs. passive robot assisted walking. To our knowledge this is the first study showing EEG analysis during robot assisted walking. We provide evidence for significant differences in cortical activation between active and passive robot assisted gait. Our findings may help to define appropriate features for single trial detection of active participation in gait training. This work is a further step toward the evaluation of brain monitoring techniques and brain-computer interface technologies for improving gait rehabilitation therapies in a top-down approach.
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