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Sometimes, simple solutions to problems turn up in unlikely places. Researchers from Sweden are drawing inspiration from the movie industry to improve rehabilitation for stroke patients.
Motion capture technology, used by filmmakers to convert people's movements into computer animations, has been enlisted to analyze the everyday movements of stroke patients and help them achieve more from their rehab.
Researchers from the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, claim the 3D animations provide a new level of detail about stroke victims' mobility.
Margit Alt Murphy, presenting the results of the study in a doctoral thesis, explains:
"Computer technology provides better and more objective documentation of the problem in terms of the everyday life of the patient than what human observation can provide. With 3D technology, we can measure a patient's movements in terms of numbers, which means that small changes in the motion pattern can be detected and can be fed back to the patient in a clear manner."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 795,000 Americans have a stroke every year, and that the financial cost of health care, medications and missed days of work totals $38.6 billion.
The CDC also notes that recovery times vary enormously from a few weeks, to months or even years. Many people experience paralysis or weakness on one side of their body.
Physical therapy, using exercises, can help people relearn movement and coordination skills that may have been lost due to the stroke.
For the study, the researchers used the motion capture technology, familiar to film buffs for the lifelike movements of Gollum from Lord of the Rings, or Na'vi from Avatar, to record the range of movement among about 100 people.
The participants, both healthy and people who had suffered a stroke, were kitted out with small, round "reflex balls" on their arms, trunk and head, and then asked to drink a glass of water. Infrared light from the high-speed cameras bounced off the balls and was transferred to a computer, which created a 3D-animated stick person.
Margit Alt Murphy continues:
"With 3D animation, we can measure the joint angle, speed and smoothness of the arm motion, as well as which compensating motion patterns the stroke patient is using. This give us a measurement for the motion that we can compare with an optimal arm motion in a healthy person."
In the dissertation, she notes that three kinematic measures - movement time, movement smoothness and any compensatory trunk displacement - characterized those with moderate to mild impairment after a stroke.
"Our study shows that the time it takes to perform an activity is strongly related to the motion quality," she adds.
The researchers say these measures were shown to be "valid and responsive measures for characterizing the upper extremity function."
Margit Alt Murphy concludes:
"Our results show that computerized motion analysis could be a complement to a physician's clinical diagnosis and an important tool in diagnosing motion problems."
Earlier this year, Medical News Today reported on a study from the University of Minnesota, which used 3D technology to help stroke patients use "virtual hands."
Written by Belinda Weber
Copyright: Medical News Today
Not to be reproduced without the permission of Medical News Today.
Development and validation of upper extremity kinematic movement analysis for people with stroke. Reaching and drinking from a glass, Margrit Alt Murphy, University of Gothenburg. 18 November 2013. Abstract.
Additional source: University of Gothenburg news release.
Visit our Stroke category page for the latest news on this subject.
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