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/Reading room/Mega Mindy computer game helps paralyzed children
Mega Mindy computer game helps paralyzed children
Unique combination of Virtual Reality and mirror therapy can be used for the rehabilitation of children suffering from paralysis on only one side of the body
Schelle (Belgium) — 10 February 2017 — Today the partners of the imec.icon project wE-MOVE introduced a prototype for a Mega Mindy computer game that will help rehabilitate children who are paralyzed on one side. Wearing Virtual Reality glasses, the children can see their paralyzed arm move perfectly, which will train their brains to be able to do this in “real life” in the long term. The idea is based on “mirror therapy”, a notable form of therapy that was developed to treat phantom pain. Aside from precision movement tracking, a platform was developed to allow the therapist to keep track of the frequency, quality and progress of the exercises.
Children who are paralyzed on one side of the body (hemiplegia, for example caused by a brain tumour) need to regularly perform certain exercises during the rehabilitation process. However, these young patients often lack the necessary motivation. They would rather just play! Computer games are often among their favourite activities. This prompted ten companies and research groups two years ago to develop an “exergame” for hemiplegic children. An exergame combines exercise - or physical activity - and gaming.
Two prototypes for exergames were developed as part of the wE-MOVE project. One of these was a general activating game that can be used with obese children, for example. Using a depth-perception camera and pressure soles to accurately detect movements, the game spurs children to run, jump and fly with the ultimate goal of catching a thief together with Mega Mindy or Mega Toby. All data are carefully stored to enable the therapist to gain accurate insight into the frequency, quality and progress of the exercises, even if these are performed at home, through a user-friendly interface.
The second prototype that was developed is unique in the world because it makes use of Virtual Reality goggles for mirror therapy. “Mirror therapy is often used to treat adults suffering from hemiplegia resulting from a stroke and for the treatment of phantom pain. In this type of therapy, a mirror is placed between the normal arm and the paralyzed arm. When moving the “healthy” arm, you will see both arms moving normally when looking in the mirror. This deceives the brain and improves the movements made by the paralyzed arm, or causes phantom pain to disappear. Mirror therapy, however, is difficult to apply to children because they think it’s boring and soon lose interest,” explains Hilde Van Waelvelde of the Ghent University research group for Rehabilitation Science and Physiotherapy. “Instead of a mirror, we are using Virtual Reality goggles. This way, we can also use mirror therapy to treat children between the ages of four and twelve. The movement of the properly functioning hand is measured, and this is translated into a movement executed by both hands in the virtual game environment.”
This new exergame was used in small-scale testing as part of the project, particularly to find out if children would accept the Virtual Reality technology. Clearly, they did not encounter any problems performing their exercises wearing the Virtual Reality goggles. Therapists and neurologists can now set to work with the game to further study its effect on rehabilitation and on the brain.
The wE-MOVE project ran from 1 January 2015 until 31 December 2016, in which commercial partners Sileni Studios, RS Scan International, Spartanova, PreviewLabs and Studio 100 joined forces with the scientific expertise provided by the researchers of imec – ETRO – VUB, Ghent University – Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy (REVAKI), Ghent University Hospital – Children’s Rehabilitation Center, imec – IPI – Ghent University and imec – mict – Ghent University. The project received financial support from the Flemish Agency for Innovation & Entrepreneurship.
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