BACKGROUND: Studies on robot-assisted gait training rehabilitation in multiple sclerosis have reported positive effects on mobility and quality of life. However, their effects on cognitive functions are difficult to determine because not all trials have included cognition assessments. Virtual reality-based training provides enhanced opportunity for stimulating cognitive abilities by repetitive practice, feedback information, and motivation for endurance practice. OBJECTIVE: To compare the effects of innovative robot-assisted gait training combined with virtual reality versus standard robot-assisted gait training on information processing speed, sustained attention, working memory, and walking endurance in patients with multiple sclerosis. METHODS: Seventeen outpatients were randomly assigned to receive robot-assisted gait training either with or without virtual reality. The robot assisted gait training + virtual reality group underwent end-effector system training engendered by virtual reality. The standard training group underwent end-effector system training. A blinded rater evaluated patients before and after treatment and at one month follow-up. The outcome measures were the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test, Phonemic Fluency Test, Novel Task, Digit Symbol, Multiple Sclerosis Quality of Life-54, 2-Minutes Walk Test, 10-Meter Walking Test, Berg Balance Scale, gait analysis, and stabilometric assessment. RESULTS: Between-group comparisons showed a significant change on the 2-Minutes Walk Test (p = 0.023) after treatment in the robot-assisted gait training + virtual reality group. Significant improvement were obtained also in executive functions (p = 0.012). Both gains were maintained at the 1-month follow-up evaluation (p = 0.012, p = 0.012) in the robot-assisted gait training + virtual reality group. Both group improved quality of life after treatment (Multiple Sclerosis Quality of Life-54: Mental Health p = 0.018, Physical Health p = 0.017). CONCLUSIONS: Both training lead to positive influenced on executive functions. However larger positive effects on gait ability were noted after robot-assisted gait training engendered by virtual reality with multiple sclerosis. Robot-assisted gait training provides a therapeutic alternative and motivational of traditional motor rehabilitation.
Munari, Daniele;Fonte, Cristina;Varalta, Valentina;Battistuzzi, Elisa;Gandolfi, Marialuisa;Modenese, Angela;Filippetti, Mirko;Smania, Nicola
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