Portable virtual reality rehab for stroke victims

December 13, 2013 by Cécilia Carron, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

A portable virtual reality device improves neuroplasticity for quicker recovery. It is conquering hospitals around the world. It is being validated by the CHUV hospital in Lausanne, Switzerland and soon by the Stanford Stroke Center in the United States.

The Mindmaze platform, developed by a spin-off of the EPFL, Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience, is the first to enable the rehabilitation and personalized tracking of people affected by a stroke through fun and stimulating virtual reality exercises. The patient can practice alone, pause to recover, and resume as many times as necessary. It is now possible to maximize hours of training per day to ensure a better recovery. The device, named MindPlayPRO, also allows clinicians and caregivers to effectively handle several patients simultaneously. The start-up is set to receive a second Business Angels investment of half a million Swiss francs after the 2.7 million collected in 2012. It is also poised to complete a major round of financing.

Placed at the patient's bedside, the MindPlayPRO system has two screens on articulated arms. Caregivers can program the machine and obtain data from a high-resolution camera and track patient progress. The patient screen shows the 3D avatar of the patient with an exercise to perform – for example, to hit a target at the middle of a colored circle. The accuracy required can be adapted according to the patient's specific challenges. Just as with video games, successfully completing a task wins points. New cognitive exercises are being developed, which increase the gameplay along with the sophistication of training. The results allow both the medical team and the patient to track progress and adjust tasks accordingly.

Repetition and diversity are equally important because this is about genuine relearning. The mastery of a specific motion does not ensure that all gestures will be easy. After being tested tested at CHUV (University Hospital of Lausanne) for two years, the device is now being introduced into the market. At the end of October, Tej Tadi, the founder and head of MindMaze has started a collaboration with the Stanford Stroke Center, one of the world's major research centers in this field, where a device should soon be deployed. Collaboration between that institution and the Swiss start-up is expected to strengthen early next year.

For disabled patients, one function of the device allows work by making the brain believe that the immobilized body part is still working. This enables early reactivation of neuronal connections. It is based on a simple principle. Observing the intended action is sufficient to gradually reactivate certain areas of the brain close to those that have been affected. For example, when the patient moves his good right arm, the computer shows his (motionless) left arm in the process of performing the same movement. This activates a region of the cortex closely related to what was damaged – which gradually takes over. Exercising is then facilitated with the disabled limb.

Every year 16,000 people in Switzerland and 15 million people worldwide are victims of a stroke. "We started by proposing a device that targets the rehabilitation of the upper extremity, because it is seriously debilitating for 75% of stroke patients," says Tej Tadi, who developed this technology during his doctoral studies.

Explore further: Using virtual reality to recover from a cerebro-vascular accident

Related Stories

Using virtual reality to recover from a cerebro-vascular accident

May 19, 2011
It’s possible to regain mobility in your arms using “Nano” after a cerebro-vascular accident (CVA). Developed by MindMaze, an EPFL spin-off company, this device can be used every day at home.

'Virtual reality hands' may help stroke survivors recover hand function

November 17, 2013
"Virtual reality hands"—controlled by stroke survivors' thoughts—could help them recover use of their hands and arms, according to a small study presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2013.

Novel rehabilitation device improves motor skills after stroke

December 2, 2013
Using a novel stroke rehabilitation device that converts an individual's thoughts to electrical impulses to move upper extremities, stroke patients reported improvements in their motor function and ability to perform activities ...

Brain-training device may ease stroke paralysis

December 2, 2013
(HealthDay)—Scientists are testing a new thought-controlled device that may one day help people move limbs again after they've been paralyzed by a stroke.

FDA clears medical device for muscle and joint rehabilitation

May 31, 2013
The Food and Drug Administration today granted 510(k) clearance to a muscle and joint rehabilitation medical device developed by OHSU Scientist Dr. Paul Cordo, Ph.D., and AMES Technology, Inc.

Recommended for you

How your brain remembers what you had for dinner last night

January 17, 2018
Confirming earlier computational models, researchers at University of California San Diego and UC San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Arizona and Louisiana, report that episodic memories are encoded in the hippocampus ...

Recording a thought's fleeting trip through the brain

January 17, 2018
University of California, Berkeley neuroscientists have tracked the progress of a thought through the brain, showing clearly how the prefrontal cortex at the front of the brain coordinates activity to help us act in response ...

Midbrain 'start neurons' control whether we walk or run

January 17, 2018
Locomotion comprises the most fundamental movements we perform. It is a complex sequence from initiating the first step, to stopping when we reach our goal. At the same time, locomotion is executed at different speeds to ...

A 'touching sight': How babies' brains process touch builds foundations for learning

January 16, 2018
Touch is the first of the five senses to develop, yet scientists know far less about the baby's brain response to touch than to, say, the sight of mom's face, or the sound of her voice.

Brain zaps may help curb tics of Tourette syndrome

January 16, 2018
Electric zaps can help rewire the brains of Tourette syndrome patients, effectively reducing their uncontrollable vocal and motor tics, a new study shows.

Researchers identify protein involved in cocaine addiction

January 16, 2018
Mount Sinai researchers have identified a protein produced by the immune system—granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF)—that could be responsible for the development of cocaine addiction.

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.