A team of British researchers is planning to assess whether motion sensors similar to those developed for video games like Nintendo Wii can help stroke patients relearn simple tasks.
The Oxford University team want to determine if such technology can be used to monitor improvements in upper body movements in patients undergoing physiotherapy.
AdvertisementThe researchers hope that it will allow patients to see their progress, and motivate them to keep exercising.
Clinical trials of the equipment are being planned, they say.
The researchers believe that the motion sensors may enable physiotherapists to assess the range of movement a patient has, and help them tailor exercises accordingly.
Since people are often faced with a lack of motivation to continue with their exercises, according to the researchers, this exciting stuff is worth exploring.
The makers of the new technology have revealed that they based their work on a previous study in which the walking pattern in children affected with cerebral palsy were analysed.
They have utilised the same motion-sensing technology that records the movements of actors for computer-generated films such as Beowulf.
They use a total of 12 infrared cameras to track the movement of reflective markers stuck to a person's wrist, arm and torso in real time.
Research leader Dr Penny Probert Smith said that though motivate stroke patients could be hard, the early days were vital.
"At first we're using a multi-camera system in the lab which will help us look at before and after the exercises and how much they use particular joints. We hope to break down useful movements - anything from handling money to tying shoelaces - into different elements that can be quantified and then assessed against standardised measures based on current clinical tests," the BBC quoted Smith as saying.
The researchers said that their aim was to develop a version of the technology that could be used by stroke patients at home, monitored by doctors remotely, and get feedback on how they are doing.
They said that they planned to test such a system within a year.
Patients usually stop doing their daily exercises because they cannot see the small improvements they are making.
Professor Marion Walker, an expert in stroke rehabilitation at the University of Nottingham, calls it a "crucial problem".
"People do have problems with motivation to continue with their exercises so this is exciting stuff and worth exploring. Patients respond well to technology but the equipment needs to be low cost and easy to use so it's not just a gimmick," Walker said.