|Min Li, Jing Chen, Bo He, Guoying He, Chen-Guang Zhao, Hua Yuan, Jun Xie, Guanghua Xu, Jichun Li
|Providing stimulation enhancements to existing hand rehabilitation training methods may help stroke survivors achieve better treatment outcomes. This paper presents a comparison study to explore the stimulation enhancement effects of the combination of exoskeleton-assisted hand rehabilitation and fingertip haptic stimulation by analyzing behavioral data and event-related potentials. The stimulation effects of the touch sensations created by a water bottle and that created by cutaneous fingertip stimulation with pneumatic actuators are also investigated. Fingertip haptic stimulation was combined with exoskeleton-assisted hand rehabilitation while the haptic stimulation was synchronized with the motion of our hand exoskeleton. In the experiments, three experimental modes, including exoskeleton-assisted grasping motion without haptic stimulation (Mode 1), exoskeleton-assisted grasping motion with haptic stimulation (Mode 2), and exoskeleton-assisted grasping motion with a water bottle (Mode 3), were compared. The behavioral analysis results showed that the change of experimental modes had no significant effect on the recognition accuracy of stimulation levels (p=0.658), while regarding the response time, exoskeleton-assisted grasping motion with haptic stimulation was the same as grasping a water bottle (p=0.441) but significantly different from that without haptic stimulation (p=0.006). The analysis of event-related potentials showed that the primary motor cortex, premotor cortex, and primary somatosensory areas of the brain were more activated when both the hand motion assistance and fingertip haptic feedback were provided using our proposed method (P300 amplitude 9.46μV). Compared to only applying exoskeleton-assisted hand motion, the P300 amplitude was significantly improved by providing both exoskeleton-assisted hand motion and fingertip haptic stimulation (p=0.006), but no significant differences were found between any other two modes (Mode 2 vs. Mode 3: p=0.227, Mode 1 vs. Mode 3: p=0.918). Different modes did not significantly affect the P300 latency (p=0.102). Stimulation intensity had no effect on the P300 amplitude (p=0.295, 0.414, 0.867) and latency (p=0.417, 0.197, 0.607). Thus, we conclude that combining exoskeleton-assisted hand motion and fingertip haptic stimulation provided stronger stimulation on the motor cortex and somatosensory cortex of the brain simultaneously; the stimulation effects of the touch sensations created by a water bottle and that created by cutaneous fingertip stimulation with pneumatic actuators are similar.