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University Develops Technology To Help Stroke Sufferers

3 April 2011

University of Ulster scientists are teaming up with a leading international medical technology company to help improve the lives of stroke sufferers.

Myomo, a company based in Massachusetts, USA, has linked up with Ulster’s School of Computing and Information Engineering, and the School of Health Sciences, who have developed a gaming system designed to help patients recover use of arm function damaged by stroke.

The Ulster researchers have developed virtual reality games that work as a therapeutic training system. The system, known as myGames, encourages patients with motor disorders of the arm and hand to practice physical exercise in a series of realistic scenarios in which the virtual objects respond to the movement of the patient.

Dr Michael McNeill, Senior Lecturer in Computing Science and one of the game designers in the Ulster team, said: “As a standalone product, myGames allows people impaired by stroke to have fun while performing repetitive movements that have been clinically proven to promote motor recovery.

“Combining Myomo’s neuro-robotics with myGames results is a potentially very effective therapeutic program aimed at the increasing the ability to perform functional tasks.”

Although the product can work as a standalone therapy, the University of Ulster design can now work with a new product from Myomo. This company has recently launched a new neuro-robotic arm brace - the mPower1000 - that can be incorporated for use with myGames.

The mPower 1000 is a sleeve that the patient puts around their arm. The sleeve has sensors that sit on the skin’s surface and detect even a very faint muscle signal. When a person with a weak or partially paralyzed arm tries to move, and a muscle signal fires in the arm, the robotics in the mPower 1000 engage to assist in completing the desired movement.  In helping achieve desired movement, the device can be worn as a functional aid, used during exercise to maintain gains or applied as a rehabilitation device that re-teaches arm movement to the brain.

The lightweight and portable device is based on technology developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It has on-board controls for easy use and built-in Bluetooth capability for communication with external applications and systems which include myGames.

Steve Kelly, CEO of Myomo, said: “This is the first step toward our long term vision to integrate different technologies and treatments that get people moving again, give them hope, and let them be where they want to be - at home.”

Notes for Editors:
The mPower 1000 is cleared by the FDA for use in the home and in clinical settings.  It is intended to increase arm movement affected by brain injury such as stroke, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and traumatic brain injury.

The progress of the patient using the mPower1000 is measured by myProgress. It was developed in collaboration with the Quality of Life Technology (QoLT) Center, a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Centre based at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. During each exercise/therapy session, myProgress can capture measurements related to range of motion with and without assistance, number of movements, duration of session, and more.

Session data can be trended over time to demonstrate progress and help maintain motivation on therapy compliance.  A web based portal enables clinicians to securely track their patient’s usage at home.