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AME graduate students, faculty develop stroke rehabilitation system

A team of graduate students and faculty from the School of Arts, Media and Engineering have developed a new rehabilitation system for stroke survivors. The Mixed Reality Stroke Rehabilitation System utilizes both virtual and physical realities to help stroke victims relearn basic motor skills after suffering from a stroke.

Those undergoing therapy with the system would engage in “reach and grab” exercises to regain their sense of space following the stroke.

“The system is very important because it targets a population of people who are currently living with long-term disabilities,” bioengineering graduate student Margaret Duff said. “(The system) is attempting to improve their quality of life and their ability to move and function better and more independently.”

As a patient reaches toward an object, a screen in front of them analyzes their movement and guides their hand to the object via visual and auditory cues.

The auditory aspect of the system aids in correcting hand movement by playing a particular melody. When the individual’s hand moves too fast or too slow toward the object, the melody either speeds up or slows down accordingly, Lehrer said.

“It’s kind of like a video game, but specifically used to track (the patient’s) movement,” media arts and sciences graduate student Nicole Lehrer said. “It’s also designed to intuitively signal what kind of errors (the patients) are making and how to correct them.”

The addition of both auditory and visual media to a stroke rehabilitation system is both a novel and necessary addition to the medical field, media arts and sciences graduate student Michael Baran said. Without the presence of these aids, the patient would have to look at their hand in order to gauge how fast or slow they are moving it, while the assistance of visuals and audio significantly expedites the process, Lehrer said.

“I think we have a very unique approach to stroke rehabilitation,” Baran said. “I’ve seen many systems in the past that are very engineering driven and would only have engineers designing them.

Baran said their approach is more comprehensive.

Baran said after attending a few conferences where the system was discussed, both medical professionals and engineers seemed to really take interest in the system that the team was developing.

The technology has been in development for roughly six years under direction of School of Arts, Media and Engineering Director Thanassis Rikakis

The first month long clinical trial this November occurred at the Banner Baywood Medical Center in Mesa with positive results.

“None of the results from the trials have been formally published,” Baran said. “However, I would say tentatively, it does seem like we’re seeing an improvement with patients. The doctors and physicians who would be using these systems seemed very engaged with the idea which I think is due to our unique approach to the system.”

Although the team has just wrapped up its first clinical trial with stroke survivors at Baywood, they are still in the process of creating a similar system for home use. This would allow patients to continue this new type of therapy after leaving a clinic within minimal therapist supervision.

“The dream is for the (AMRR) computer program to learn how the patient is progressing and continually change and adapt with them,” said Baran.


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