Background and Purpose.
We have developed a novel cane device to be used in conjunction with a treadmill-based virtual reality (VR) locomotor system. This proof-of-principle paper reports the rationale, instrumentation, feasibility, and clinical implications of the cane device, as well as preliminary results from persons with stroke and healthy older adults using the device.
Five persons with stroke and 5 healthy older adults participated.
Average walking speeds with and without use of the cane are compared between the overground physical environment (PE) and a self-paced, treadmill-based virtual environment (VE). Additional gait parameters examined while walking with and without the cane in the VE are: (1) gait variability quantified as the coefficient of variation (% CV) for stride duration, and (2) step width. We also reported and discussed the vertical loading forces transmitted through the cane during self-paced treadmill walking in the VE.
Results reveal that walking with the instrumented cane on a treadmill is feasible for use in both healthy and stroke populations. It is evident that people who normally rely on a walking cane benefit more from the instrumented cane than people who normally walk unaided.
Discussion and Conclusion.
This work represents the first instrumented cane for use with a treadmill-based locomotor system. The use of this assistive device would add to the ecological validity of such gait rehabilitation systems. It is expected that gait training with the instrumented cane can be carried over to overground walking, although further studies are warranted.