NIH funds MU stroke projects, including 3D movement assessment tool

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The University of Missouri is using advanced technology to monitor how stroke patients are progressing with rehabilitation in accomplishing daily activities.

Researchers at the university received more than $3 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health to investigate the use of the technology, in addition to other stroke projects that are being studied.

In the first project, researchers created an intelligent depth sensor system that monitors the daily activities of patients recovering from strokes at home. The sensors capture a 3D silhouette of an individual’s body and can track common movements, such as opening a cabinet door, obtaining a drink from a refrigerator or stirring food while preparing a meal.

“The technology allows us to not only recognize the activity going on, but to be able to assess how well they are doing the activity,” says Marjorie Skubic, professor of electrical engineering and computer science in the MU College of Engineering and one of the co-creators of the system. “This is a way for occupational therapists to see how the rehab is progressing and translating into somebody’s everyday activities. Giving people a more personalized therapy plan can help improve the rehab process and ultimately lead to better health outcomes.”

“This tool will provide a noninvasive look into how someone completes daily activities in their own home environment,” says Rachel Proffitt, assistant professor of occupational therapy in the MU School of Health Professions, its other co-developer. “As an occupational therapist, I can change treatment plans for the individual based on what I see. For example, if they are recovering well and starting to stretch their arms a bit further or have smoother range of motion, I can add some more challenging activities to their rehab plan.”

Part of the project included developing algorithms for use within the system to enable it to build a recognition system for daily activities, says Mengxuan Ma, a graduate student at MU pursuing her doctoral degree in electrical and computer engineering who helped develop the algorithms.

Also receiving NIH funding is Timothy Wolf, associate professor and chair of occupational therapy in the MU School of Health Professions. Wolf has been researching neurological injury rehabilitation for more than a decade and is evaluating a new intervention method that focuses on improving performance of everyday activities. The NIH grant will enable Wolf and other occupational therapists to assess the strengths and limitations of patients recovering from stroke. By asking patients about their recovery goals and the types of activities in which they wish to re-engage, therapists can create specific strategies and suggest techniques to improve their ability to complete these tasks.

Funding for these projects was provided by the National Institutes of Health through the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research in the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

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