Engineers at Rutgers University have modified a popular home video game system to help teenagers with cerebral palsy improve hand functions.
In a pilot trial with three participants, the system improved the teens’ abilities to perform a range of daily personal and household activities.
The system combined a Sony PlayStation 3 console and a commercial gaming glove with custom-developed software and games to provide exercise routines aimed at improving hand speed and range of finger motion.
The Rutgers engineers, who are members of the university’s Tele-Rehabilitation Institute, worked with clinicians at the Indiana University School of Medicine to deploy the systems in participants’ homes for up to 10 months.
’The system engages the interest of teens with cerebral palsy and makes it convenient for them to perform the exercises they need to achieve results,’ said Grigore Burdea, professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of the Rutgers Tele-Rehabilitation Institute.
Each system communicated via the internet to allow the Indiana and Rutgers researchers to oversee participants’ exercise routines and evaluate the effectiveness of the systems. The system is an example of both virtual rehabilitation, where patients interact with computer-generated visual environments to perform exercises, and tele-rehabilitation, where patients perform exercises under remote supervision by physical or occupational therapists.
Meredith Golomb, an associate professor of neurology at the Indiana University School of Medicine, oversaw the pilot study where participants were asked to exercise their affected hand 30 minutes a day, five days a week, using games custom developed by the Rutgers engineers. The games were calibrated to the individual teen’s hand functionality. An on-screen image of a hand showing normal movements guided the participants in their exercises.
After three months of therapy, two participants progressed from being unable to lift large, heavy objects to being able to do so. Participants showed varying improvement in such activities as brushing teeth, shampooing, dressing and using a spoon. At 10 months, one participant was able to open a heavy door.