Most research on power assist suits (PASs) that concerned PAS-human interactions has used human physical reactions as criteria to evaluate the mechanical function, however, with minimal emphasis on human reactions in response to PASs. In this study, we focused on the physiological responses of the upper limbs including muscle activity of the biceps brachii and the triceps brachii, co-activation, force steadiness (CV) and rated perceived exertion (RPE) to various patterns of bilateral assistive force, such as unilateral assistance (L0% & R67% [% = percentage of workload force, L = left arm, R = right arm], L67% & R0%, L0% & R33%, L33% & R0%), symmetrical (L0% & R0%, L33% & R33%, L67% & R67%) and asymmetrical bilateral assistance (L33% & R67%, L67% & R33%), during bilateral isometric force-matching tasks. The results showed a similar muscular response of the two arms to bilateral assistive conditions, and the muscle activity of the arm that was being observed decreased only when the assistive force that applied on itself increased, indicating that both arms may have adopted similar but independent motor control mechanisms to acclimate to the bilateral assistive forces. Comparison between the two unilateral assistances (L0% & R33% and L33% & R0%) and the two asymmetrical bilateral assistances (L33% & R67%, L67% & R33%) showed no significant differences in muscular responses, CV and RPE, indicating that bilateral assistances with bilateral interchanged assistive levels may be equally effective regardless of which arm the higher assistive force is applied to. Comparison between unilateral and symmetrical assistive conditions that have similar overall workloads (L67% & R0%, L33% & R33%, L0% & R67%) showed a lower CV and RPE score at symmetrical assistance compared with unilateral assistance, suggesting that assisting both arms with the same level simultaneously improves task performances compared with applying the assistive force to only one arm.
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