FEATHERS: Functional Engagement in Assisted Therapy through Exercise Robotics
Principal Investigator: Mike Van der Loos, Department of Mechanical Engineering, UBC
Partner Organization: Abilities Neurological Rehabilitation, BC Centre for Ability Association
We have assembled an integrated knowledge/technology/client team to develop a novel robot-based home therapy program for children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy and older persons post-stroke. Stroke rehabilitation professionals acknowledge that about half of upper limb functional recovery after stroke is spontaneous. Any remaining recovery results from intensive, repetitive therapy over months of time, stimulating neuroplastic changes in the brain's motor control pathways. This is painful, frustrating and hard work. Sustaining a treatment over months requires significant motivation and funding. Health plan coverage is insufficient; motivation is highly dependent on a person's support network and inner drive, and often not adequately tapped. High compliance with exercise regimens predicts significantly more functional return, yet lack of compliance is a problem for over half of recovering persons. Our project will combine low-cost robotic devices, a bimanual training program, social media frameworks such as Facebook Games, and on-line performance sharing between therapy clients and with their therapists. This represents a best-practices approach to bidirectional knowledge transfer, development of technology and design of well-coordinated home-based therapy. Together these approaches will yield interventions for people with stroke and children with hemiparetic cerebral palsy that significantly improve functional ability and quality of life.