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About the Project

This project is funded by UK India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) phase-II and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) Government of India under the DST-UKIERI Thematic Partnership program (DST-2013-14/126).

This international collaborative project has three main components brain-computer interface (BCI), exoskeleton, and rehabilitation which are being undertaken under respective leaders Professor Girijesh Prasad of Neural Systems and Neuro-technology Research Team, Professor Ashish Dutta of Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IITK) India, and Professor Suzanne McDonough of Institute of Nursing and Health Research under the co-ordination  of the PI Professor Prasad.

It is known that much enhanced upper limb recovery can be gained if stroke sufferers with limb impairments, perform intensive active physical practice (PP) in conjunction with motor imagery (MI) practice (or mental practice) of activities of daily living. Although a PP can be performed with the help of a therapist, dependence on the therapist may lead to a passive practice. To ensure active practice,  main project objectives are as follows:

  • Develop a lightweight three-finger exoskeleton with embedded sensors, capable of replicating human motion for physical practice. It will be controlled by users’ EMG and EEG signals in assist-as-needed mode
  • Develop a novel brain-computer interface (BCI) that facilitates EMG and EEG for controlling the exoskeleton and provides  visual neurofeedback to ensure focused physical and MI practices
  • Conduct pilot trials to evaluate the effectiveness of the exoskeleton along with BCI in movement restoration

Projected key outcomes

The project investigated a neuro-rehabilitation system that facilitates intensive active physical practice and MI practice. Following are its main outcomes.

  • Developed a three-finger exoskeleton that can be worn by the subjects and can be controlled through the users’ Electromyography (EMG) and Electroencephalography (EEG) based BCI commands in assist-as-needed mode;
  • Provided visual neuro-feedback from BCI to help ensure highly focused performance of PP as well as MI practice. The exoskeleton is superior to state-of-the-art as it is able to replicate natural human finger motion with more degrees-of-freedom and directly aimed at restoring critical hand functions;
  • Pilot clinical trials on post-stroke participants have been conducted in two phases. The first phase involving ten healthy individuals and ten chronic stroke patients took place at IITK followed by the 2nd phase at UU, wherein five post-stroke participants underwent resting state MEG scanning for assessing recovery related cortical changes. Having undergone the pilot clinical trials, the stroke participants have reported transformative change in their quality of life, particularly in the recovery of upper hand motor functions.