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"Brain training" to ease rehab for stroke victims

Posted: 17 May 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:brain training device? brainwave?

A common side effect of experienced by stroke survivors is impaired motor skills. Motor recovery for each patient would depend on how effective their rehabilitation program. However, a new technology crafted by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) researchers may bring a glimmer of hope for stroke survivors.

The team of researchers led by Raymond Tong Kai-yu, Professor of PolyU's Interdisciplinary Division of Biomedical Engineering (BME), developed the Brain Training Device, which can detect brainwave, and thereby control the movement of paralyzed limbs, or go even further to control a robotic hand based on its sophisticated algorithm. Other members of the group include BME researchers Newmen Ho, Xiaoling Hu, Ching-hang Fong, Xinxin Lou, Lawrence Chong and Nathan Lam and the Industrial Centre team of PolyU Robert Tam, Bun Yu, Shu-to Ng and Peter Pang.

Tong was also the principal investigator of the award-winning Exoskeleton Hand Robotic Training Device or the Hand of Hope.

The Brain Training Device can work together with the Hand of Hope to achieve higher degree of recovery for stroke patients. Rehabilitation products currently available for patients do not use brainwave to guide the stroke survivors to identify voluntary intention and to relearn how to reconnect to their paralyzed limb again. Tong and his team developed the novel device with a new coherence algorithm for hand function training. The new algorithm is based on frequency coherence on surface electroencephalography (EEG, brainwave) and electromyography (EMG, muscle activities) to identify voluntary intention and their connection.

"The Brain Training Device is able to guide the stroke patients to relearn the reconnection between the brain and the limb, with a new design on the EEG headset and the EMG forearm brace to transmit data for controlling a hand robotic system interfaced by a telecare software platform using iPad app." Tong explained.

The patented Brain Training System, which looks like a helmet for cyclist and can read brainwaves, also has new features to find the specific EEG electrode locations for each individual stroke patient and reduce the number of EEG electrodes, which can reduce the system cost and the preparation time for brain training, Tong added.

Brain training device

The device can guide stroke patients to relearn the reconnection between the brain and the limb.

To find a minimal set of electrodes to control the device with accuracy higher than 90 per cent, five chronic stroke patients were recruited to be trained for 20 sessions in the study. The researchers found that, in general, 32 electrodes are needed to maintain accuracy higher than 90 per cent.

The high accuracy and low number of channels needed means that the Brain Training Device is a viable tool for assistive aid and rehabilitation training. The futuristic system will be made portable and easy-to-use at hospital and home settings.

The PolyU researchers have already filed patents for the Brain Training Device in both the United States and China. This project is funded by the HKSAR Government's Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF). The findings of this brain control algorithm have been published as the cover story in top international journal IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering (2011.12).

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