Integrated robotics platform with haptic control differentiates subjects with Parkinson's disease from controls and quantifies the motor effects of levodopa

J Neuroeng Rehabil. 2019 Oct 26;16(1):124. doi: 10.1186/s12984-019-0598-5.


Background: The use of integrated robotic technology to quantify the spectrum of motor symptoms of Parkinson's Disease (PD) has the potential to facilitate objective assessment that is independent of clinical ratings. The purpose of this study is to use the KINARM exoskeleton robot to (1) differentiate subjects with PD from controls and (2) quantify the motor effects of dopamine replacement therapies (DRTs).

Methods: Twenty-six subjects (Hoehn and Yahr mean 2.2; disease duration 0.5 to 15 years) were evaluated OFF (after > 12 h of their last dose) and ON their DRTs with the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) and the KINARM exoskeleton robot. Bilateral upper extremity bradykinesia, rigidity, and postural stability were quantified using a repetitive movement task to hit moving targets, a passive stretch task, and a torque unloading task, respectively. Performance was compared against healthy age-matched controls.

Results: Mean hand speed was 41% slower and 25% fewer targets were hit in subjects with PD OFF medication than in controls. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) area for hand speed was 0.94. The torque required to stop elbow movement during the passive stretch task was 34% lower in PD subjects versus controls and resulted in an ROC area of 0.91. The torque unloading task showed a maximum displacement that was 29% shorter than controls and had an ROC area of 0.71. Laterality indices for speed and end total torque were correlated to the most affected side. Hand speed laterality index had an ROC area of 0.80 against healthy controls. DRT administration resulted in a significant reduction in a cumulative score of parameter Z-scores (a measure of global performance compared to healthy controls) in subjects with clinically effective levodopa doses. The cumulative score was also correlated to UPDRS scores for the effect of DRT.

Conclusions: Robotic assessment is able to objectively quantify parkinsonian symptoms of bradykinesia, rigidity and postural stability similar to the UPDRS. This integrated testing platform has the potential to aid clinicians in the management of PD and help assess the effects of novel therapies.

Keywords: Dopamine replacement therapy; Parkinson’s disease; Robotic assessment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antiparkinson Agents / therapeutic use
  • Exoskeleton Device*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Levodopa / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement / physiology
  • Parkinson Disease / diagnosis*
  • Parkinson Disease / drug therapy
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology
  • Robotics / instrumentation*


  • Antiparkinson Agents
  • Levodopa