Helping Hands reaches out to patients with cerebral palsy

May 10, 2012
The Dino-Might rehabilitation device invented by students at Rice University is attached to strength gauges that feed data to a computer on which patients play a game while it records their progress. Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

With the aid of multiple force sensors and a digital dinosaur, a team of Rice University seniors known as Helping Hands hopes to restore strength and flexibility to the hands and wrists of children with cerebral palsy.

"These kids have a real problem with their hands," said Jenna Desmarais, a senior at Rice majoring in . "The fingers and wrists are locked into a sort of claw-like position. Even after surgery to correct it, they need physical therapy to get stronger."

The team's rehabilitation , the Dino-Might, was inspired by their mentor, Gloria Gogola, a pediatric hand and upper-extremity surgeon at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Houston. She corrects the condition, known as spastic wrist flexion deformity, and restores wrist extension by surgically removing a tendon from the underside of the wrist and attaching it to the upper portion.

After surgery, the wrist and its associated muscles and , though straightened, are weak and must be exercised to restore near-normal use. Gogola wanted a rehabilitation device that securely positions the patient's limb, senses and records its strengths and provides a workout for the weakened wrist. Dino-Might prompts the child to appropriately adjust his or her movements with a computer game starring an animated dinosaur.

Jenna Demarais tests the Dino-Might, a rehabilitation device for young patients with cerebral palsy that was invented by a team of senior engineering students at Rice University. Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

Along with Desmarais, the team consists of bioengineering majors Jessica Joyce and Allison Post and mechanical engineering majors Kurt Kienast, Lawrence Lin and Leslie Miller.

"It's a game, essentially, but one that's connected to eight strength gauges," said Joyce, who devised the software for the device. "By playing the game, the child is telling us how strong she is and how well she can use her wrist and hand. With the game as an incentive, we're learning the patient's strong points, keeping a record of them and making them stronger at the same time."

On the display screen, the patient is given an angular route and is asked to follow it as closely as possible. Using a graphical user interface (GUI) and a data acquisition device, the researchers are able to record results of the patient's movements while the results are being displayed in real time.

The video will load shortly
A team of Rice University engineering students created the Dino-Might to help children with cerebral palsy rehabilitate their wrists and hands. Credit: Brandon Martin/Rice University

"There have been similar devices in use, but Dr. Gogola hasn't been satisfied with them," Joyce said. "Something, some feature she wants to use, is always missing. What's novel here is the completeness, all in one package – the force sensors, the arm restraint, the stand, the hand restraint, the GUI."

The team has already tested the device on three patients in Gogola's clinic and used the results to recalibrate the sensors.

"Every time the device is used on a new patient, it's adjusted and customized to fit that individual child," Desmarais said. "The information we're giving Dr. Gogola is accurate for that specific patient. The doctor isn't getting a general idea but a precise picture of that boy or girl."

The device might also be adjusted for use by older patients suffering from stroke and spinal cord injuries. Gogola plans to use it this summer on her pediatric and report her findings to the team at Rice.

Explore further: Student engineers automate limb lengthening for kids

Related Stories

Student engineers automate limb lengthening for kids

April 23, 2012
Another day, another four turns of the screw. That's just a part of life for people, primarily children, undergoing the long and difficult process of distraction osteogenesis, a method to correct bone deformities that leave ...

Brain-activated muscle stimulation restores monkeys' hand movement after paralysis

April 18, 2012
An artificial connection between the brain and muscles can restore complex hand movements in monkeys following paralysis, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Recommended for you

Google searches can be used to track dengue in underdeveloped countries

July 20, 2017
An analytical tool that combines Google search data with government-provided clinical data can quickly and accurately track dengue fever in less-developed countries, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

MRSA emerged years before methicillin was even discovered

July 19, 2017
Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) emerged long before the introduction of the antibiotic methicillin into clinical practice, according to a study published in the open access journal Genome Biology. It was ...

New test distinguishes Zika from similar viral infections

July 18, 2017
A new test is the best-to-date in differentiating Zika virus infections from infections caused by similar viruses. The antibody-based assay, developed by researchers at UC Berkeley and Humabs BioMed, a private biotechnology ...

'Superbugs' study reveals complex picture of E. coli bloodstream infections

July 18, 2017
The first large-scale genetic study of Escherichia coli (E. coli) cultured from patients with bloodstream infections in England showed that drug resistant 'superbugs' are not always out-competing other strains. Research by ...

Ebola virus can persist in monkeys that survived disease, even after symptoms disappear

July 17, 2017
Ebola virus infection can be detected in rhesus monkeys that survive the disease and no longer show symptoms, according to research published by Army scientists in today's online edition of the journal Nature Microbiology. ...

Mountain gorillas have herpes virus similar to that found in humans

July 13, 2017
Scientists from the University of California, Davis, have detected a herpes virus in wild mountain gorillas that is very similar to the Epstein-Barr virus in humans, according to a study published today in the journal Scientific ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.