Posts Tagged virtual therapy

[WEB SITE] Personal Rehab and Recovery Through Virtual Therapy

Virtual therapy is based on research that combines leading-edge data techniques with wearable robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

An engineering researcher from New Zealand’s University of Auckland has been awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship.

The Associate Professor, who is developing a virtual therapy technology for personal rehabilitation, is one of eleven Fellows for 2019. The Fellowship provides NZ$ 800,000 in funding over five years.

According to a recent press release, his research combines leading-edge data techniques with wearable robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

The aim is to create devices that are capable of personalising rehabilitation and recovery plans, which are cheaper and more efficient than humans.

The Problem for Personal Rehabilitation

  • Currently, rehabilitation after a medical event, such as stroke, is carried out by trained physical or occupational therapists.
  • However, much of the work is physically demanding and the cost is relatively high and time-consuming.
  • While some robotics devices used for physical rehabilitation have been developed overseas, they lag far behind what a human therapist is capable of.
  • The current technology has little or no intelligence and can only act on predefined rules. Thus, it is not tailored to individuals and does not have the ability to adapt and learn as a human therapist would.

The Solution for Personal Rehabilitation

  • The researcher’s work, meanwhile, takes a strongly data-driven approach, looking at the fundamental physiology of human movement.
  • It will build on that information in order to create individual recovery plans that take into account the effects of a diverse range of physical impairments.
  • The goal is to make real progress towards creating low-cost robotic ‘virtual therapists’ with the ability to deliver automatic but very precise treatments.
  • The Rutherford Discovery Fellowships, managed on behalf of the government by the New Zealand Royal Society Te Apārangi, aim to attract and retain talented early- to mid-career researchers by helping them establish a track record for future research leadership.
  • The high costs of healthcare not just in New Zealand but around the world mean that progress in the area of medical technologies and personalised therapies and treatments needs to be prioritised.


In other news, the University was the site of a unique digital treasure hunt recently to mark Stress Less Week.

Stress Less week was held 7 to 11 October as thousands of students prepare to head into study break and exam period.

A student start-up developed the technology used in the app-based game, which challenged the students to unlock and solve riddles on the City Campus to find secret locations and discover rewards.

The start-up’s Founder explained that fun is the ultimate antidote to stress.

They provided an experience that facilitated getting out and connecting with peers, before it gets too close to exams and after the mid-semester wave of assignments.

They are passionate about using new technologies to turn cities into playgrounds, developing a portfolio of technologies in the process.

These technologies include holograms, face-recognition software and transparent glass screens, which they draw on to design interactive games.

Using the campus for a big treasure hunt is a great way to test the waters before thousands of dollars are put into more commercial ventures, and scale-up the app to use in different situations.


via Personal Rehab and Recovery Through Virtual Therapy

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[ARTICLE] Innovative STRoke Interactive Virtual thErapy (STRIVE) online platform for community-dwelling stroke survivors: a randomised controlled trial protocol – Full Text


Introduction The STRoke Interactive Virtual thErapy (STRIVE) intervention provides community-dwelling stroke survivors access to individualised, remotely supervised progressive exercise training via an online platform. This trial aims to determine the clinical efficacy of the STRIVE intervention and its effect on brain activity in community-dwelling stroke survivors.

Methods and analysis In a multisite, assessor-blinded randomised controlled trial, 60 stroke survivors >3 months poststroke with mild-to-moderate upper extremity impairment will be recruited and equally randomised by location (Melbourne, Victoria or Launceston, Tasmania) to receive 8 weeks of virtual therapy (VT) at a local exercise training facility or usual care. Participants allocated to VT will perform 3–5 upper limb exercises individualised to their impairment severity and preference, while participants allocated to usual care will be asked to maintain their usual daily activities. The primary outcome measures will be upper limb motor function and impairment, which will be assessed using the Action Research Arm Test and Upper Extremity Fugl-Meyer, respectively. Secondary outcome measures include upper extremity function and spasticity, as measured by the box and block test and Modified AshworthScale, respectively, and task-related changes in bilateral sensorimotor cortex haemodynamics during hand reaching and wrist extension movements as measured by functional near-infrared spectroscopy. Quality of life will be measured using the Euro-Quality of Life-5 Dimension-5 Level Scale, and the Motor Activity Log-28 will be used to measure use of the hemiparetic arm. All measures will be assessed at baseline and immediately postintervention.

Ethics and dissemination The study was approved by the Deakin University Human Research Ethics Committee in May 2017 (No. 2017–087). The results will be disseminated in peer-reviewed journals and presented at major international stroke meetings.

Trial registration number ACTRN12617000745347; Pre-results.


Stroke is one of the leading causes of adult disability in Western countries,1 and for many stroke survivors, upper extremity (UE) paresis makes performing activities of daily living (ADLs) difficult. Up to 60% of community-dwelling stroke survivors live with severe motor impairments of the shoulders, elbows and/or wrists that significantly impacts their functional capacity and quality of life.2 Improved UE function is considered a rehabilitation priority after stroke,3 yet optimal recovery of arm function is poor.2 4 A large majority of stroke survivors experience a lack of support and access to rehabilitative services once they are discharged into the community,5 6 which can compromise their recovery. While most recovery occurs in the first weeks to months after stroke, improvements in function can still be experienced beyond this period.7

The use of virtual reality as a therapy, which is characterised by the participant being immersed in, and interacting with, a computer-generated environment,8 is emerging as an efficacious treatment for UE impairment after stroke.9 10 Online virtual therapy (VT) systems can provide the fundamental elements needed for motor skill development; they can be individually tailored, involve many task-specific repetitions that are increasingly challenging in response to participant improvement and feedback can be embedded in the system. The enriched environment offered by VT is thought to be effective in training problem solving and functional task performance11 and can potentially increase participant engagement compared with non-VT rehabilitation platforms.12

Online VT systems have the potential to address the lack of community-based rehabilitation support experienced by stroke survivors by being affordable, accessible, user-friendly and importantly, have the ability to remotely monitor rehabilitation progress. VT systems, such as the Jintronix Rehabilitation System (Montreal, Canada) to be used in this study, can be administered affordably through commercially available products that include motion capture capabilities (eg, Microsoft Xbox Kinect V.2) and personal computers.13 Online VT systems can be easily implemented at a local community centre, which would enable patients with stroke to receive specialised treatment and monitoring remotely. Online VT platforms have been shown to be user-friendly and motivating,14 including interfaces that are engaging and easy to interact with, and software that can be run on any personal computer/device. In a Cochrane review, Laver et al 9 reported low-quality evidence suggesting VT is a more effective approach to improve arm function after stroke compared with conventional therapy.9 A recent multiple systematic review, including 10 randomised controlled trials and four systematic reviews, found VT therapy to be similar to standard rehabilitation for treatment of UE impairment and disabilities.15

To understand the effects of VT on cerebral activity in stroke rehabilitation, neuroimaging techniques such as functional MRI (fMRI) have been used previously to determine cortical reorganisation postrehabilitation.16 While fMRI is considered the gold-standard measure in neuroimaging, these techniques may be limited as they only allow for small movements to occur within the scanner that are very different from activities of daily living (ADLs). In this sense, functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) may be a more suitable neuroimaging technique as it is able to measure changes in cerebral haemodynamic responses (ie, changes in oxyhaemoglobin and deoxyhaemoglobin (HbO2 and HHb)) in response to larger body and head movements that mimic ADLs. Previous studies have also established that cerebral haemodynamic measures from fNIRS are highly comparable with blood oxygen-level dependent signals from fMRI,17 18 which makes it a suitable surrogate to measure changes in brain activity following VT rehabilitation in people with stroke.

Given the advantages of increased accessibility to specialised treatment and monitoring that is afforded by VT, we aim to determine if an online VT system can provide efficacious UE rehabilitation for community-dwelling stroke survivors. We have chosen to focus our intervention on UE function as impaired arm function is highly common after stroke,2 which profoundly impacts the capacity to perform ADLs19 and only a small number of stroke survivors experience complete functional recovery of the UE.20 

Continue —>  Innovative STRoke Interactive Virtual thErapy (STRIVE) online platform for community-dwelling stroke survivors: a randomised controlled trial protocol | BMJ Open

Figure 2 Examples of VT therapy games that target UE mobility of the shoulders, elbows and wrists. UE, upper extremity; VT, Virtual therapy.

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