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Oct 06, 2006

fMRI-compatible rehabilitation hand device

fMRI-compatible rehabilitation hand device

Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation (October 2006)  

Authors: Azadeh Khanicheh, Andrew Muto, Christina Triantafyllou, Brian Weinberg, Loukas Astrakas, Aria Tzika and Constantinos Mavroidis

Background: Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has been widely used in studying human brain functions and neurorehabilitation. In order to develop complex and well-controlled fMRI paradigms, interfaces that can precisely control and measure output force and kinematics of the movements in human subjects are needed. Optimized state-of-the-art fMRI methods, combined with magnetic resonance (MR) compatible robotic devices for rehabilitation, can assist therapists to quantify, monitor, and improve physical rehabilitation. To achieve this goal, robotic or mechatronic devices with actuators and sensors need to be introduced into an MR environment. The common standard mechanical parts can not be used in MR environment and MR compatibility has been a tough hurdle for device developers. Methods: This paper presents the design, fabrication and preliminary testing of a novel, one degree of freedom, MR compatible, computer controlled, variable resistance hand device that may be used in brain MR imaging during hand grip rehabilitation. We named the device MR_CHIROD (Magnetic Resonance Compatible Smart Hand Interfaced Rehabilitation Device). A novel feature of the device is the use of Electro-Rheological Fluids (ERFs) to achieve tunable and controllable resistive force generation. ERFs are fluids that experience dramatic changes in rheological properties, such as viscosity or yield stress, in the presence of an electric field. The device consists of four major subsystems: a) an ERF based resistive element; b) a gearbox; c) two handles and d) two sensors, one optical encoder and one force sensor, to measure the patient induced motion and force. The smart hand device is designed to resist up to 50% of the maximum level of gripping force of a human hand and be controlled in real time. Results: Laboratory tests of the device indicate that it was able to meet its design objective to resist up to approximately 50% of the maximum handgrip force. The detailed compatibility tests demonstrated that there is neither an effect from the MR environment on the ERF properties and performance of the sensors, nor significant degradation on MR images by the introduction of the MR_CHIROD in the MR scanner. Conclusions: The MR compatible hand device was built to aid in the study of brain function during generation of controllable and tunable force during handgrip exercising. The device was shown to be MR compatible. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first system that utilizes ERF in MR environment.

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