A Gentle/S approach to robot assisted neuro-rehabilitation
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Movement disorders (MD) include a group of neurological disorders that involve neuromotor systems. MD can result in several abnormalities ranging from an inability to move, to severe constant and excessive movements. Strokes are a leading cause of disability affecting largely the older people worldwide. Traditional treatments rely on the use of physiotherapy that is partially based on theories and also heavily reliant on the therapists training and past experience. The lack of evidence to prove that one treatment is more effective than any other makes the rehabilitation of stroke patients a difficult task. UL motor re-learning and recovery levels tend to improve with intensive physiotherapy delivery. The need for conclusive evidence supporting one method over the other and the need to stimulate the stroke patient clearly suggest that traditional methods lack high motivational content, as well as objective standardised analytical methods for evaluating a patient's performance and assessment of therapy effectiveness. Despite all the advances in machine mediated therapies, there is still a need to improve therapy tools. This chapter describes a new approach to robot assisted neuro-rehabilitation for upper limb rehabilitation. Gentle/S introduces a new approach on the integration of appropriate haptic technologies to high quality virtual environments, so as to deliver challenging and meaningful therapies to people with upper limb impairment in consequence of a stroke. The described approach can enhance traditional therapy tools, provide therapy "on demand" and can present accurate objective measurements of a patient's progression. Our recent studies suggest the use of tele-presence and VR-based systems can potentially motivate patients to exercise for longer periods of time. Two identical prototypes have undergone extended clinical trials in the UK and Ireland with a cohort of 30 stroke subjects. From the lessons learnt with the Gentle/S approach, it is clear also that high quality therapy devices of this nature have a role in future delivery of stroke rehabilitation, and machine mediated therapies should be available to patient and his/her clinical team from initial hospital admission, through to long term placement in the patient's home following hospital discharge.
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