Robotic Exoskeleton Retrains the Brain


Cleveland, Ohio (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Multiple Sclerosis, it’s an unpredictable disease that disrupts the flow of information between the brain and the body, slowly robbing many patients of their ability to walk, causing tremors, muscle paralysis numbness, and weakness. Now, a robotic exoskeleton may help retrain the brain and keep MS patients up and walking.

Four days a week, this is where you will find Kathy Miska.

“I have balance, I have buoyancy,” Miska said.

In the water, Miska can forget about her MS, a disease that claimed the life of her sister.

Miska told Ivanhoe, “Her last 10 years of her life, she was a total vegetable. She couldn’t control her eyes. She couldn’t wiggle a finger.”

Now that same disease is slowly attacking Miska.

“It feels like you’re giving up a little bit of your independence,” she described.

In a move to regain her mobility, she strapped on a robotic exoskeleton to retrain her brain and her body to walk normally again.

“I was always swinging my leg around to walk because I can’t pick it up,” Miska explained.

During the eight-week study, patients fitted into the battery powered suit walked the halls three times a week for about 30 minutes.

“You know, you do that repetitive motion so many times over and over again that eventually it gets instilled in your brain,” she said.

“Really the idea is to use the device to enhance the rehab so that when people go back home and do the exercise routine on their daily activities, their ability to perform these exercises or these activities is enhanced without using the device,” Francois Bethoux, MD, chair of physical medicine and rehabilitation department at the Neurological Institute at Cleveland Clinic.

(Read Full Interview)

It worked for Miska.

She told Ivanhoe, “I’d be screaming to my husband, oh my god, my leg’s working, my leg’s working. It gives you so much hope when that’s happening.”

And that is really the ultimate goal.

Powered exoskeletons are currently approved by the FDA for rehabilitation of patients with spinal cord injury and post-stroke paralysis on one side of the body. Dr. Bethoux says future research will assess neuro pathways from the brain to the body known as brain plasticity.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Ken Ashe, Editor.

To receive a free weekly e-mail on Medical Breakthroughs from Ivanhoe, sign up at:





REPORT:       MB #4716

BACKGROUND: Multiple sclerosis (MS) interrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. It is thought to be triggered in a genetically susceptible individual by a combination of one or more environmental factors. The immune system attacks tissue and cells within the central nervous system (CNS) and causes damage to nerve connections resulting in neurological symptoms. Although MS is thought by some scientists to be an autoimmune disease, others disagree because the specific target of the immune attack in MS has not yet been identified. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, although an estimated 8-10,000 children under the age of 18 also live with MS, and people as old as 75 have developed it.


DIAGNOSING: A doctor will begin with a thorough medical history and examination. Then, the doctor may perform a blood test which can check for specific biomarkers associated with MS. A spinal tap, or lumbar puncture, in which a small sample of fluid is removed from the spinal canal may be performed and sent for laboratory analysis. This sample can show abnormalities in antibodies that are associated with MS. An MRI may be taken which can reveal areas of lesions on the brain and spinal cord. The doctor may also perform evoked potential tests which record the electrical signals produced by the nervous system in response to stimuli. This test may use visual stimuli or electrical stimuli, in which you watch a moving visual pattern, or short electrical impulses are applied to nerves in your legs or arms. Electrodes measure how quickly the information travels down your nerve pathways.


THE HUMAN GUT AND MS: A study by University of Iowa scientists shows that a type of human gut bacteria is as effective as an approved drug in blocking multiple sclerosis-like symptoms in a mouse model of the disease. The study led by Ashutosh Mangalam, Ph.D., UI Assistant Professor of Pathology, provides more evidence that this bacterium, Prevotella histicola (P. histicola), may have potential as a treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS). The team compared the effect of P. histicola with the effect of a disease-modifying drug used to treat MS called Copaxone. They found that treatment with P. histicola was as effective in suppressing disease as treatment with Copaxone. However, combining P. histicola with Copaxone was not more effective than either individual treatment. Mangalam says, “P. histicola might be tested in patients who do not respond to Copaxone, as well as in new patients as an alternate to Copaxone or other disease-modifying therapies.” The findings suggest the disease-suppressing activity of the bacterium and the drug work through different mechanisms.



Alicia Reale Cooney

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Francois Bethoux, MD, Chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Read the entire Q&A