Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gaming may improve dexterity of teens with CP

From The Daily Targum at Rutgers Univ.

An ongoing joint study between Rutgers University and Indiana University professors is researching new ways to help those with cerebral palsy disorder.

The study, which has been going on for a year, includes three teenagers with cerebral palsy disorder, ranging between the ages of 13 and 15, who used a modified Sony PlayStation 3 gaming glove to perform dexterity exercises in the form of games.

Grigore Burdea, a University professor of electrical and computer engineering said the new method might allow patients to rehabilitate without the need of professional supervision.

“[Hopefully] it will become a product that people will take to their homes. The future of therapy is not in the clinic,” he said. “Entertainment is moving to the home, work is moving to the home, then why not move therapy to the home?”

Cerebral palsy disorder is caused by damage to one or more specific areas of the brain, usually occurring during fetal development. The disease disrupts the brain’s ability to adequately control movement and posture, according to the United Cerebral Palsy’s Web site.

There are about 764,000 adults and children who experience the debilitating muscular and bodily effects of cerebral palsy, according to the site.

Moustafa Abdelbaky, a co-author of the study, said its goal is to research the disorder by installing a specifically modified video game console into each of the homes of the three participants in the study.

Burdea said the patients would see an avatar of their hand on the screen and, through slight movements of their own hand, the avatar would move in a wide range of motion.

This allowed those participating to use the system within the comfort of their own home without the need to go to a physical therapy center, he said.

Abdelbaky, an electrical and computer engineering graduate student here, said going into the study, there were little to no expectations about the effectiveness of the treatment.

Burdea said the study found that patients could now open doors and carry groceries as well as other heavier objects.

Meredith Golomb, an associate professor of neurology at Indiana University School of Medicine, found out about Burdea’s work through the Internet and said the combination of her skills with Burdea’s was perfect.

“I’m a pediatric neurologist and know how to assess the kids medically,” Golomb said. “He is an engineer and knows how to get the systems working — it has been a great collaboration so far.”

Burdea previously worked with patients who suffered from strokes, using an Xbox 360 in a similar way. For this study, he said the Xbox 360 was of no use anymore and would be replaced by PlayStation 3 consoles.

While it may appear that using virtual reality to help patients recover from illness is a new method, Burdea said this sort of work has been going since 1993.

Abdelbaky said he hopes there a bright future for the use of consoles in researching serious disorders.

“The next step is to install [consoles] in one of the clinics that has a lot of kids in it, between 20 and 25 kids,” he said. “We are going to install [it] there so that kids can use the system over the course of the week. This way all of those at the clinic can use the system to help them.”

Together, Abdelbaky and Burdea agree that the ultimate goal is to provide this service to everyone affected with cerebral palsy but also to other patients with muscular disorders.