University of Alabama researchers has developed the Roto-Tilt Chair, a chair that rotates and tilts the person sitting in it.
This could enhance diagnosis and expand what is known about balance disorders, specifically the wobbly issues that arise from inner ear malfunctions.
Brainchild of Dr. Craig Formby, the chair is a one-of-a-kind invention that rotates, twirls and eventually will spin test subjects and patients head over heel so researchers can gather data on how the inner ear contributes to balance and why the system sometimes goes wrong.
Formby, distinguished graduate research professor in The University of Alabama's department of communicative disorders, is beginning a years-long process of first testing, then using the chair for the benefit of people who have trouble balancing.
The custom-designed Roto-Tilt Chair, built to Formby's specifications by Neuro Kinetics Inc. of Pittsburgh, is installed in the AIME Building at UA. Specific motions and positions of the chair can be used to test particular parts of their vestibular system, and visual displays can be presented to assess related eye movement disorders.
"What we can do with it, no one else can do," Formby says.
With the new chair, Formby can evaluate a sitting patient by spinning the chair, by rapidly tilting the chair, or by combining the spinning and tilting actions to achieve specific motions or positions that activate the individual inner ear structures. Researchers can monitor, through the movements of the chair and the eyes, how the patients are dealing with the two basic sensory systems that control their balance: the visual and vestibular systems.