According to several estimations, there are more than 5 million people living in the U.S. who have been affected by a cerebral vascular accident. And more than 700,000 persons are suffering from a stroke every year. Some of them recover well. But others need months of physical therapy to regain the use of their limbs. This is why Rice University researchers have developed a PC-based robot to help stroke patients. They began this fall a two-year study of their Mirror-Image Movement Enabler (MIME), a robotic system that uses a joystick to help patients with eye-to-hand coordination. But read more...
You can see above the MIME-RiceWrist robot. "Motions of the shoulder and elbow are controlled by the MIME (Mirror Image Movement Enabler) system, which utilize a Puma robot. Motions of the forearm and wrist are controlled by the RiceWrist, a parallel structure cable driven robot mounted on the end of the PUMA. Three operating modes are implemented on the combined MIME-RiceWrist system and a graphical user interface (GUI) is available that allows the number of repetitions, start and end points of the reaching movements, the mode and the mode parameters to be selected at each trial. Data are saved during the sessions for further analysis, such as patients’ movement characteristics or evaluation of the motor recovery of the patient." (Credit: MIME-RiceWrist project, Rice University)
This project has been led by Marcia O'Malley, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Rice University, and director of Rice's Mechatronics and Haptic Interfaces Lab (MAHI). Here is a link to other MAHI's current research projects.
So how the researchers are testing their robotic system? "O'Malley and Memorial Hermann|TIRR doctors this fall began a two-year study of a prototype rehabilitation system developed at MAHI that uses a joystick to help patients with eye-to-hand coordination. The study involved 16 patients. In one exercise, the patients use the joystick to move an object from one part of the computer screen to another. Like all the systems in O'Malley's lab, the rehab program uses force-feedback technology called 'haptics' that allow people to 'feel' their environment while they are in virtual reality."
Here are some additional comments from O'Malley about the use of haptics technology. "'We're interested in measuring how smooth the movements are, compared to what might be optimal. The computer can precisely measure how a patient responds to every single exercise. This lets the doctors and physical therapists know exactly what their patient most needs to work on. This precise, measurable feedback provides a great advantage over the subjective evaluations currently in use.'"
This research project has been presented on October 2, 2007 to the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign under the title "RiceWrist: A Haptic Wrist Exoskeleton for Rehabilitation and Training." Here are some additional details about the system. "Robot-aided therapy, using haptic interfaces, has been demonstrated to be effective in improving motor skills in stroke survivors. This presentation will describe efforts toward the development of a high-fidelity haptic wrist exoskeleton robot, RiceWrist, for rehabilitation and training. The RiceWrist is intended to provide kinesthetic feedback during the training of motor skills and rehabilitation of reaching movements. The exoskeleton device accommodates forearm supination and pronation, wrist flexion and extension, and radial and ulnar deviation."
Here is another comment from O'Malley who developed this robotic system with funds from the Department of Veterans Affairs. "'The patients who get a chance to try this tend to get very excited. I've been inspired to see how hard patients are willing to work to regain their mobility, and our technology really plays to that strength. The machine never gets tired. It allows them to work as long and as hard as they want.'"
Now, let's just hope that this robotic system will help as many people as possible.
Sources: Rice University news release, December 4, 2007; and various websites
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