Helping Hands reaches out to patients with cerebral palsy

May 10, 2012, Rice University
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.

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: New device could benefit treatment of hand injuries

Related Stories

New device could benefit treatment of hand injuries

July 7, 2009
A team of Rice University bioengineering students who invented a device to measure intrinsic hand muscle strength has won two prestigious honors for their patent-pending creation, PRIME. The device could revolutionize the ...

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.

New surgical technique shows promise for improving function of artificial arms

February 10, 2009
A surgical technique known as targeted muscle reinnervation appears to enable patients with arm amputations to have improved control of functions with an artificial arm, according to a study in the February 11 issue of JAMA.

Robotic Devices Providing Home-Care Rehabilitation (w/ Video)

November 13, 2009
(PhysOrg.com) -- A group of researchers, at Northeastern University, have developed several portable robotic devices to aid in the rehabilitation process of stroke victims. These devices are small enough for patients to continue ...

PossessedHand: Technology group develops device to move your fingers for you

June 24, 2011
(PhysOrg.com) -- In an interesting meshing of robotics and prosthetics development, Japanese researchers from Tokyo University working in conjunction with Sony Corporation, have created an external forearm device capable ...

Recommended for you

Marker may help target treatments for Crohn's patients

October 16, 2018
Crohn's disease (CD), a chronic inflammatory condition of the intestinal tract, has emerged as a global disease, with rates steadily increasing over the last 50 years. Experts have long suspected that CD likely represents ...

Polio: Environmental monitoring will be key as world reaches global eradication

October 15, 2018
Robust environmental monitoring should be used as the world approaches global eradication of polio, say University of Michigan researchers who recently studied the epidemiology of the 2013 silent polio outbreak in Rahat, ...

Study traces hospital-acquired bloodstream infections to patients' own bodies

October 15, 2018
The most common source of a bloodstream infection acquired during a hospital stay is not a nurse's or doctor's dirty hands, or another patient's sneeze or visitor's cough, but the patient's own gut, Stanford University School ...

Researchers make essential imaging tests safer for people at risk of acute kidney injury

October 15, 2018
Every year, millions of people undergo medical tests and procedures, such as coronary angiography, which use intravascular contrast dyes. "For the majority of patients, these are safe and necessary procedures. However, about ...

Do not give decongestants to young children for common cold symptoms, say experts

October 11, 2018
Decongestants should not be given to children under 6—and given with caution in children under 12—as there is no evidence that they alleviate symptoms such as a blocked or runny nose, and their safety is unclear, say ...

New techniques can detect Lyme disease weeks before current tests

October 11, 2018
Researchers have developed techniques to detect Lyme disease bacteria weeks sooner than current tests, allowing patients to start treatment earlier.

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.