Abstract

Finger extensor muscle weakness and flexor hypertonia are the most commonly reported issues among patients suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Moreover, the relative hyperflexion of the wrist and fingers has limited their ability to voluntarily open the hand and interact with the external environment. In this work, a hybrid hand exoskeleton is developed to prevent the relative hyperflexion of the fingers and wrist and facilitate the users in their functional hand opening by compensating the flexor hypertonia. This exoskeleton, combining a passive device with the soft extra muscle (SEM) glove, assists users in normal hand opening/closing required for some basic activities of daily living. The paper presents kinematic and static models of passive hand exoskeleton design. Moreover, the proposed design is tested and evaluated by comparing the volunteer hand opening with the exoskeleton assistance using the flex sensors attached on the dorsal side of the middle finger, ring finger, and thumb with both healthy subjects and patients. The results show the effectiveness of using the hybrid exoskeleton in improving anatomical hand opening/closing capabilities.

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