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Monday, November 5, 2012

Robo-Gloves aid Stroke Victims and MS Patients

Every year nearly 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke. Eighty-five percent of the survivors end up having some degree of hand disability as a result. 

After leaving the hospital, the majority of a stroke patient’s rehabilitation consists of repetitive at-home exercises, says Nizan Friedman, a biomedical engineering student at the University of California, Irvine. "The therapist basically will give the person a booklet of exercises and say ‘Move your fingers like this 100 times, stretch your hand out 100 times.’ And in reality that’s not motivating. Most people don’t complete the therapy and they don’t recover." 

Friedman is part of a research group that's trying to make therapy a little more fun. The scientists invented a game, based on Guitar Hero, meant to make rehabilitation therapy more interesting for people recovering from stroke or who have hand impairments due to cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, or multiple sclerosis. "Guitar Hero is the third largest video game created in the history of video games," Friedman says. "This is something that people get addicted to, and we want people to get addicted to our therapy." 

To play, the patients match their hand movements to notes falling on the screen. And as in ordinary Guitar Hero, the notes are timed rhythmically with music. But rather than mashing buttons on a fake plastic guitar, the patient touches the thumb to one of their four fingers—each finger corresponds to a different color, or "note". 

The MusicGlove uses conductive fingertip sensors to detect whether the player has achieved the correct finger position. By playing six or seven songs, the patients complete between two and three thousand repetitions of their therapeutic exercises, with real-time feedback about whether they’ve performed the right gestures at the right times. They get a score at the end of each song and can work to beat their previous scores. 

Read more: Robo-Gloves to Aid Stroke Victims - Popular Mechanics 


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