Can Exoskeleton Suits lead to a treatment for Cerebral Palsy?

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Offline BRIGHT_Foundation

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Hi everyone,

I am an engineer, a father of a child with CP and the founder of the BRIGHT Foundation. After 11 years of researching and trying most treatments (both mainstream and alternative), I have come to the conclusion that perhaps the most effective approach to treatment for kids with CP will be with intelligent exoskeleton suits that will allow for 24x7 '"training".

I have outlined my idea at our website in the following article: newbielink: [nonactive]

Basically, the idea is that the brain is plastic and with extensive training, even brain damage that causes Cerebral Palsy can be recovered by recruiting other non-damaged areas of the brain to take over for the damaged areas.

We know this method of "recovery" happens in some patients, but most patients don't improve much. The reason is that re-training the brain is not easy and takes thousands or perhaps hundreds of thousands of interactions.

An intelligent exoskeleton can provide an ideal environment for effective re-training of the brain. For example,

1.) Standard PT and fails because the child is demotivated by failure. An intelligent exoskeleton will allow 100% success and thus motivate the child to do more training.
2.) Standard PT & OT fails because the intensity of training is minimal. Both for economic and practical reasons, PT and OT can only occur for a few hours each week. This is not intensive enough training to re-train the brain. An intelligent exoskeleton will allow virtually 24x7 training if desired. My guess is once the kids are able to move independently, they will want to keep the suit on pretty much all the time.
3.) PT & OT are not precise or sophisticated. They rely on the experience and "touch" of the therapist. Although these people are very highly skilled, the reality is that they can't provide repeatable and consistent training. Its just not possible when you are dealing with touching and holding and other manual manipulations. An exoskeleton on the other hand could use sensors to detect the amount of assistance need to achieve a goal, like taking a step. The suit would provide just enough support, not too much or too little. After a programed number of repetitions (say once a day) the suit could be programed to back off ever so slightly in the amount of support that it provides. This creates an environment where the child is succeeding 100% every day, but every day the child is doing more and more of the work on their own.

I realize that this suit is not in existence today. However the technology is available. Someone just needs to have the funding to build it. BRIGHT is just starting out to spread this idea and to hopefully raise the funds needed to begin to build such suits. If anyone is interested, we would love to talk to you about our ideas and experiences.



Offline CliffordK

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TNS frowns on self-promoting posts.  However, this does seem to be a most unique idea.  I hope you do continue to participate in the forum.

Have you seen this TED video (found by RD here)

However, the designing and training would still be quite complex.

An exo-skeleton should be able to carry it's own battery.  However, that could be a major problem unless you would choose to keep it confined to a wheel chair, or an umbilical cord system. 

One of the things that has come from the Gulf War is that our government has been making leaps and bounds with prosthetics which would also be worth reviewing.

Also look on the WWW for "Smart Prosthetics"

I'm also seeing notes of Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) such as BrainGate

Good luck with the project.


Offline BRIGHT_Foundation

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Hi Clifford,

Thanks for allowing the post to remain.  I hope you realize this is less about self promotion and more about trying to promote this treatment method, or for that matter any treatment method, that can help.

I also appreciate your thoughts and the useful links.   When my daughter was born 11 years ago, the technology was just beginning.  Now, there has been quite a bit of progress and I really do think we are approaching the point where the technology is becoming available. 

A tethered solution might not be as bad an option as it sounds, because the hope is that these suits would not be a permanent aid, but rather a treatment method which would actually allow the brain's own plasticity to produce a "cure" of sorts.

This approach would seem to work best with anoxic injuries, such as some forms of CP, Stroke, etc.   The issues of a Spinal Cord injury are quite different and movement therapy would not likely produce any cellular improvement in the spinal cord. 

Thank you again for your useful links and we would love to keep discussing this and other science ideas here.