Friday 11 January 2013

Latest gaming technology set to help stroke patients

Artist’s impression of how the setup is envisaged
New technology could revolutionise stroke rehabilitation of facial paralysis

This will recognise differences between an undesirable one-sided unilateral movement and a desired symmetrical one, across both sides of the face.
Dr Philip Breedon, reader in smart technologies at NTU
We’re hoping this technology will not only help reduce the burden on the NHS but more importantly improve the quality of life of stroke survivors.
Dr Philip Breedon, reader in smart technologies at NTU

Nottingham Trent University is to investigate how the Microsoft 'Kinect' can assist with the rehabilitation of facial paralysis caused by a stroke after being awarded a £347,000 grant to build a prototype system, which uses an avatar to give real-time feedback to patients and clinicians.

The system will automatically detect and track asymmetries on either side of a patient’s face - such as mouth corner, eyelids and cheeks – while they complete their routine facial exercises. This information will be shown on a TV or computer screen to give immediate feedback to the user.

Dr Philip Breedon, reader in smart technologies at Nottingham Trent University’s School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment and lead academic on the project, said: "This tool will recognise the differences between an undesirable one-sided unilateral movement and a desired symmetrical movement, across both sides of the face. This information would then be conveyed via the TV using an animated representation, or avatar, of the patient.

"Using the avatar as both a visual and oral communicator, the system will take the patient through a series of exercises and indicate the degree of success. It is hoped that the information will also be sent electronically to a clinician to allow them to track the patient’s progress."

This is a considerable advancement on the traditional method currently used, where patients are provided with a series of exercises on printed paper, so they are unable to assess on a daily basis whether they are making improvements or performing the correct movements.

Dr Breedon commented: "It is hoped that improved rehabilitation will be achieved through two methods. Firstly by the patient themselves getting real-time feedback on position and magnitude of asymmetries on the face, along with their changes over time, thus showing where to concentrate their efforts.

"Secondly, the therapist will get to see data produced whenever the patient exercises. This increased data should help improve diagnosis and planned recovery.

"It is crucial that a non-technical person should be able to use the system without difficulty, so much emphasis will be placed on designing an intuitive and user friendly experience."

The project, which is in partnership with the University of Nottingham, Nottingham University Hospital, Nottingham City Care Partnership and Maddison Product Design, has been funded by an esteemed National Institute for Health Research Invention for Innovation (NIHR i4i) grant. Due to commence in April 2013 for 18 months, the research group are aiming to create a prototype that can eventually be mass produced.

The device will consist of an interface box which runs the software and is linked to the Windows Microsoft 'Kinect' and the patient’s TV or PC monitor. It is hoped that if it is proved to be effective it will be available as part of rehabilitation interventions.

Dr Breedon added: "The daily recommendation of stroke rehabilitation for facial paralysis is 45 minutes. We're hoping that this technology will not only help to reduce the burden on the NHS but more importantly improve the quality of life of stroke survivors, providing them with encouragement and recognising the accomplishments during their recovery."

Notes to editors:

Press enquiries please contact Kelly Dove, Press Officer, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 8785 or via email, or Therese Easom, Press and Internal Communications Manager, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 8774 or via email.

The main project team consists of:

Dr Philip Breedon, Reader in Smart Technologies, Nottingham Trent University

Professor Pip Logan, Clinical Academic Occupational Therapist, University of Nottingham; Nottingham City Care Partnership

Clinical Professor Michael Vloeberghs, Professor of Paediatric Neurosurgery and Honorary Consultant Paediatric Neurosurgeon, Nottingham University Hospital

Mr Patrick Hall, Development Director, Maddison Product Design

Mr Ossie Newell, MBE, campaigns nationally for the improvement of stroke services and is a campaigner for Stroke, he is also Joint Chair of the Nottingham Stroke Research Consumer Group.

Dr Philip Breedon is a Reader in Smart Technologies  and the Programme Leader for Nottingham Trent University’s Smart Design Postgraduate Framework. He teaches technology, control, systems and materials.

Professor  Pip Logan teaches on the University of Nottingham’s MSc in Rehabilitation, stroke module. She also teaches undergraduate medical students, as well as research skills to nurses, therapists, and technical instructors within the NHS. She supervises PhD and MSc students in rehabilitation and provides pastoral tutoring for undergraduate medical students.

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