Taking inspiration from the Nintendo Wii, researchers at Brunel University have developed a new prototype technology to improve rehabilitation programmes for stroke survivors.
ReWiiRe is a custom made programme which can be operated on any computer and tailored to individual needs. It is designed to support stroke survivors so that they can continue their rehabilitation in the comfort of their own homes.
One of the biggest barriers stroke survivors face is in keeping motivated to continue rehabilitation exercises outside of clinical settings. When using ReWiiRe, patients can check to see that they are performing the exercises in the right way, can see how they are progressing and improving, and can stay motivated by playing games.
The first stage of the research assessed the potential for Wii technology in stroke rehabilitation by trialling the standard console with patients in the NHS. These findings showed that whilst patients were keen to use the technology to support their rehabilitation at home, the configuration of standard Wii games was too complex, limiting the benefits available to patients.
Dr Cherry Kilbride, Lecturer in Physiotherapy at Brunel, explains: "Following a stroke the brain is unable to function properly and needs to be retrained. It is therefore very important to a Stroke survivor to have direct visual feedback as they start to regain mobility in their limbs."
When using the ReWiiRe prototype patients are able to see the activity being performed on the screen by an avatar, then map their own movements on top. They can also see exactly how they are performing compared to their targets, and tests of the prototype have shown that when patients are focusing on the screen they can reach further and for longer.
As well as standard exercise activities the software also includes simple games such as air hockey, specifically designed to improve mobility and challenge the patients in an engaging way.
Dr Emmanuel Tsekleves, Lecturer in Multimedia Technology and Design at Brunel, said: "Ultimately the idea is that ReWiiRe will allow therapists to monitor the performance of their patients remotely, checking up on progress and updating exercises when patients are ready for the next challenge. As well as freeing up therapists' time to allow them to work with more patients, this remote rehabilitation support will also help patients who may struggle to travel to their nearest clinic."
The prototype has been tested by expert patients in the University setting and researchers are now looking to expand the scale of patient testing to further develop the technology.
Find out more about the project
Case Study - Jas Kwatra
At the age of just 19 Jas suffered two strokes resulting in loss of mobility down the entire left-hand side of her body. In the 12 years since her strokes Jas has undergone numerous outpatient physiotherapy programmes, each for about six weeks, but found it difficult to maintain the exercises away from the sessions and had low levels of motivation due to the repetitive nature of the tasks.
In September 2011 Jas joined Brunel as a Master's student and after finding out about the ReWiiRe research she volunteered to be an expert patient. After using ReWiiRe for just three weeks Jas was surprised at the progress she was able to make.
She explains: "The lack confidence you feel after a stroke which leaves you with a disability is really difficult. I was only 19 years old, independent, strong and ambitious - but everything changed. I can't explain how much positive energy I've gained from using the prototype. I wasn't expecting there to be as much progress in such a short space of time, especially 12 years post-stroke. This leaves me feeling much more optimistic and confident in my physical self. I've always been anxious about having a family and worried as to how I would hold a child safely, but this project gives me a lot of hope that I can improve."
Notes to Editors
For more information, or to interview Dr Cherry Kilbride, Dr Emmanuel Tsekleves or Jas Kwatra please contact Hannah Murray at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01727 737997.