BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: In Depth: Boston 2002  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Boston 2002 Monday, 18 February, 2002, 15:41 GMT
Positive results for robot therapy
Newman Laboratory for Biomechanics and Human Rehabilitation - MIT and the Burke Rehabilitation Hospital
The robot can guide a patient through the same movement thousands of times
Ryan, BBC

Robot physiotherapy is helping patients regain movement after a stroke.

Scientists pioneering research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston believe stroke victims could see movement improve by up to 15%.

The team hopes to develop the robot therapy so it can help the patients regain movement in their hands and wrists, allowing them to perform tasks, such as opening jars, which are often impossible for many stroke victims.

At the moment, all patients will do exercises under the instruction of a human physiotherapist to help them regain the use of limbs paralysed by a stroke. However, the response to traditional treatment can sometimes be quite poor.

In the US treatment, a patient puts their hand on a robotic joystick, and is repeatedly guided through a series of movements by prompts from a "game" on a video screen.

Combined approach

In these games, patients have to carry out tasks, such as using the joystick to move a cursor between targets on the screen. If the person is unable to carry out the movement, the robot helps move their arm.

If the patients start to move on their own, the robot provides adjustable levels of guidance and assistance to help their arm movements. Unlike human physiotherapy, the robot can guide a patient through the same movement thousands of times.

Up to 18,000 movements can be performed in six to seven weeks when the robot is added to standard treatment - much more efficient than standard treatment alone.

The MIT researchers have been working on the robot for over a decade with a series of tests showing the benefits of the robot therapy plus standard treatment for stroke patients.

Quality of life

Richard Hughes, a physiotherapist at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Unit in Boston, said he did not feel threatened by his robot counterpart: "I would rather spend my time thinking of which movements would be the best for patients to perform in order to get the maximum benefits."

The MIT team is also looking at what happens in the brain when patients use the robot therapy to try to learn more about how neural circuits damaged in a stroke can be "rewired".

The next stage in the research will be to develop a robot-controlled gauntlet, which will help patients open and close their hands to improve their ability to grip objects.

Dr Hermano Krebs, the MIT research scientist in mechanical engineering who has led the work on the robot therapy, said: "If we are giving patients the ability to open a jar, this would represent a major improvement in terms of their quality of life."

Around 700,000 US citizens suffer strokes every year. Of these, about 500,000 require therapy for problems with language, memory, or movement.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Richard Hughes
"The treatment overcomes the boredom of repetition"
See also:

Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Boston 2002 stories are at the foot of the page.


 E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Boston 2002 stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes