MC Rosenberg, JL Proctor, KM Steele (2024) “Quantifying changes in individual-specific template-based representations of center-of-mass dynamics during walking with ankle exoskeletons using Hybrid-SINDy”

Journal Article in Scientific Reports

Ankle exoskeletons alter whole-body walking mechanics, energetics, and stability by altering center-of-mass (CoM) motion. Controlling the dynamics governing CoM motion is, therefore, critical for maintaining efficient and stable gait. However, how CoM dynamics change with ankle exoskeletons is unknown, and how to optimally model individual-specific CoM dynamics, especially in individuals with neurological injuries, remains a challenge.

Depictions of walking conditions, phase variables, and example template state variables. (A) Two-dimensional depictions of template model applied to human walking without and with ankle exoskeletons (left). The phase portrait (right) defined a phase variable, , used to cluster kinematically similar measurements for model fitting. Colors denote gait phases corresponding to first and second double-limb support, single-limb support, and swing of the right leg. (B) Stride-averaged global CoM position, velocity, and acceleration for an exemplary unimpaired adult in the anterior–posterior, vertical, and mediolateral directions. The three exoskeleton conditions are shown in panels (B) and (C): shoes-only (solid lines), zero-stiffness exoskeletons (K0; dashed lines), and stiff exoskeletons (KH; dotted lines). (C) Template position and velocity states used to fit the template signatures were defined by sagittal- and frontal-plane leg angles, and leg length.Aim: Evaluate individual-specific changes in CoM dynamics in unimpaired adults and one individual with post-stroke hemiparesis while walking in shoes-only and with zero-stiffness and high-stiffness passive ankle exoskeletons.

Methods: To identify optimal sets of physically interpretable mechanisms describing CoM dynamics, termed template signatures, we leveraged hybrid sparse identification of nonlinear dynamics (Hybrid-SINDy), an equation-free data-driven method for inferring sparse hybrid dynamics from a library of candidate functional forms.

Results: In unimpaired adults, Hybrid-SINDy automatically identified spring-loaded inverted pendulum-like template signatures, which did not change with exoskeletons (p > 0.16), except for small changes in leg resting length (p < 0.001). Conversely, post-stroke paretic-leg rotary stiffness mechanisms increased by 37–50% with zero-stiffness exoskeletons.

Interpretation: While unimpaired CoM dynamics appear robust to passive ankle exoskeletons, how neurological injuries alter exoskeleton impacts on CoM dynamics merits further investigation. Our findings support Hybrid-SINDy’s potential to discover mechanisms describing individual-specific CoM dynamics with assistive devices.