Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Quanser Helps Develop a Rehab Robot for Stroke Survivors

What's the most effective, efficient way to help hemiparetic stroke survivors regain control of their arms so they can get back to performing normal, everyday activities? For Dr. Alex Mihailidis, Director of the University of Toronto's Intelligent Assistive Technology and Systems Lab (IATSL), that's not an academic question. It's the subject of ongoing research he's conducting with a team comprised of University of Toronto postgraduate students, rehabilitation specialists from the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, and mechanical and control engineers from Quanser.

Quanser's involvement began four years ago when Dr. Mihailidis suggested some of his postgraduate students work on this project while interning at Quanser. Paul Lam came to work on initial hardware design with Quanser mechanical engineer Don Gardner, and Patricia Kan worked closely with Quanser software engineer Herve Lacheray to enhance existing game-oriented physical exercises and add artifical intelligence capability to the rehab device. As a result, a first iteration of a 2 DOF upper limb rehab device was designed, built, tested and eventually used in rehab situations.

The first prototype of the of the Rehabilitation Robot for stroke survivors was a device with two degrees of freedom.

A third intern, Rajibul Huq, came on board to focus on the device's control software. He collaborated with Herve to build on the control design work done earlier by Patricia. In May of 2010, Elaine Lu joined the IATSL/Quanser team, concentrating on hardware design. Their shared goal was to design a new prototype of the original rehab device that would extend its dynamic rehabilitation capability.

For the robot to be of value to stroke victims, a user-centered focus was key. As a first step, Elaine had sent out an online survey to over 200 rehabilitation therapists, asking for their input on what the robotic device should do and what it should look and feel like to be of rehabilitative use to upper limb stroke survivors. She brought her survey results to Quanser and started to implement them into her design.

Over a four-month period Elaine spent most of her time developing this project in consultation with Quanser's engineers. She familiarized herself with the robotic hardware Quanser had already developed, including the controls we'd already designed, and began working to incorporate some of the ideas her online survey had generated.

A working prototype was completed in April of 2011. Elaine will soon take it to a focus group of therapists and stroke survivors for real-world trials. The trials will highlight what's right and what can be improved. A third prototype will then be built incorporating this feedback.

Based on the feedback from patients and therapists, researchers from the University of Toronto, Toronto Rehab Institute and Quanser developed a new Rehab Robot prototype, now ready for real-world trials.

In the future, Dr. Mihailidis and the IATSL team plan to set up a clinic at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute to conduct clinical trials, using 10 of advanced Rehab Robot prototypes. The eventual goal is to perfect the Rehab Robot for everyday use by stroke survivors in the privacy of their own homes, as well as in rehab clinics.

As the IATSL and TRI researchers, or any of our engineers could tell you, "Engineering a better future" is not merely a slogan at Quanser. It's our focus. It's why we collaborate with the academic and research community.

1 comment:

Liz Fetcher said...

Electrical stimulation and rehabilitation robotics at University of Southampton

Electrical stimulation and rehabilitation robotics is an important area when it comes to upper limb neurorehabilitation. That is why our Rehabilitation and Health Technologies researchers here at the University of Southampton are making every effort to remain at the forefront of this fast-developing area.

As experts in developing electrical stimulation and rehabilitation robotics that will make a genuine and lasting difference to the quality of life experienced by service users with neurological conditions, we aim to achieve the following three things:

To understand the mechanisms underlying impairment and recovery of arm and hand function; develop and evaluate novel rehabilitation technologies for improving arm and hand function and translate them into clinical practice; and to incorporate the views and experiences of patients, caregivers and health professionals into our research to ensure the technologies we develop are useful and acceptable.

A good example of an electrical stimulation and rehabilitation robotics project here at Southampton is the study: ‘Restoration of Reach and Grasp in Stroke Patients using Electrical Stimulation modulated by Iterative Learning Control’.

This project is the latest in a series of EPSRC funded research into finding effective ways to use Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) in combination with rehabilitation robotics to improve recovery of arm and hand function following stroke.

Advanced control algorithms have been designed to optimise stimulation output and encourage patients to use their own recovering ability to move. This latest electrical stimulation and rehabilitation robotics research will take the therapy out of the hospital and into patients' homes.

In addition, we have extended this electrical stimulation and rehabilitation robotics research to address the needs of service users with multiple sclerosis through the study: ‘Using functional electrical stimulation mediated by iterative learning control and robotics to improve arm movement for people with Multiple Sclerosis’.

Find out more about our rehabilitation robotics research at