Madeline Corrigan, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Department of Biomedical Engineering
A Novel Approach to Increase Upper Extremity Active Range of Motion for Individuals with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a neuromuscular disease with a prevalence of 1 in 3,500-5,000 male births, results in progressive muscle weakness causing loss of independence and imposing the demands of costly and intrusive assistive support and personal care for daily living tasks. Importantly, these individuals experience limited or nonexistent upper extremity function despite the existence of residual muscle strength that is insufficient to lift the arms against gravity and therefore cannot be utilized by the individual. The objective of Dr. Corrigan’s work is to utilize this residual strength and overcome the limitations of current upper extremity assistive devices for individuals with DMD by using admittance control. Admittance control is an inherently safe and intuitive robotic control paradigm that maps the user’s applied force to the motion of a robot. The use of admittance control provides a means to balance the user’s arm against gravity more precisely and minimize friction and inertia, thereby decreasing the overall force required by the user to generate a movement compared to that required by a passive arm support. Results demonstrate that individuals with DMD who have limited or nonexistent upper extremity function retain residual muscle strength sufficient to generate voluntary movement when the arms are supported against gravity. Further, results show that admittance control allows for the use of this residual strength to increase the AROM of individuals with DMD to a greater degree than a commercially available passive arm support and provides increased independence in the performance of user-identified task and activities compared to unsupported movements. A prototype of a modular, admittance control exoskeleton has been developed that demonstrates a novel approach to design by allowing customization of motorized assist modules based on user needs that can be applied to commercial arm supports. A project is underway to gather data and user feedback from 30 individuals with DMD from across the U.S. as they regularly use the exoskeletons in their home and the community.
Madeline C. Corrigan, Ph.D. is a postdoctoral research associate in the department of biomedical engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). She received her B.S. degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Minnesota in 2010 and her M.S. degree in biomedical engineering from NJIT in 2013. She went on to complete her doctoral work at NJIT, earning her Ph.D. in May of 2017. From 2012 to present, she has led the research and development efforts of upper extremity exoskeleton technologies for individuals with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) as a part of the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Wearable Robots. She has an extensive background in volunteer and personal care work for individuals with disabilities that sparked a personal and professional commitment to the development of assistive technologies that increase independence for these individuals and a unique, user-centered approach to design. Dr. Corrigan is the co-principal investigator with Dr. Richard Foulds on a grant from Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (PPMD) focusing on the evaluation of a novel upper extremity exoskeleton intended to increase independence for individuals with Duchenne muscular dystrophy in their homes and in the community.