Lancaster University stroke rehab image
Credit: Lancaster University

Researchers from Lancaster University are looking at how performance capture technology used in Hollywood films could be used to aid treatment and rehabilitation for stroke patients.

Dr Hannah Jarvis and Dr Phil Nagy from Lancaster Medical School are using the same technology employed to create characters in films like Avatar and for Gollum in the Lord of the Rings to improve stroke rehabilitation.

The technology involves retro-reflective markers placed on the body, which are tracked by infra-red cameras to create a 3D computer model of the skeleton moving on a screen. Markers are attached to specific points of the body, such as the ankles and knees, using a detailed knowledge of anatomy, with the movements recorded on video.

Now the Lancaster University team is using the same technology to research movement and motion in order to improve treatment and rehabilitation.

Dr Jarvis has already used the technology to help amputees from the conflict in Afghanistan where she was the first researcher to publish biomechanical data on this group of veterans. She is now investigating using the same technology for stroke patients and elderly individuals.

“This can be used to build a lower limb model of a stroke survivor, where we can measure the physiological cost of walking in terms of how much effort is needed to walk,” explained Dr Jarvis. “We will be able to measure the joint angle and the force on various joints as we watch the model walking on the screen. This can be used to design rehabilitation for the patient.

“Also a lot of elderly people have falls and have trouble getting up so tracking their movements will enable us to collect data on muscle activity and create a biomedical profile which can inform rehabilitation.”

The aim is to enable this technology to be used at home where stairs and rugs would make the movement tracking as realistic as possible.

The Lancaster University team is currently working with North West England stroke charities Speakeasy and Think Ahead. It is also seeking commercial partners to develop a medical device.

A randomised control trial earlier this year revealed that game-based rehabilitation equipment could be an effective alternative to standard care for older patients to regain their functional capacities.

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