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Robotic Rehabilitation for Stroke Survivors

This is an update from the OpenBCI Discovery Program. Click here for details on how to apply.

OpenBCI is proud to be partnering with the Ife Rehabilitation Robotics Research Group (IR3G) to help develop a new system for providing robotic rehabilitation to stroke patients in Nigeria. We look forward to working with them, and sharing updates on the progress of their ambitious project.

What are they making?

The Ife Rehabilitation Robotics Research Group (IR3G) is developing PULSR, a robot that can be used for rehabilitating stroke patients in Nigeria as soon as one week after stroke. An early start to rehab has been shown to dramatically improve outcomes for stroke patients. This soon after stroke, patients may be unable to generate enough muscular force to use traditional rehabilitation robots. PULSR will employ both electromyography and neurofeedback to detect the intended movement of users, so that the robot can augment their efforts.

The IR3G team will attempt to use scalp-acquired EEG signals to detect the intention of stroke patients to move their hands, thereby improving the ability of PULSR to help stroke patients complete prescribed hand movement trajectories. They hope that this will lead to a successful and effective rehabilitation robotics program for research and clinical application across Africa.

How are OpenBCI tools being applied?

EEG signals detected via OpenBCI tools will be used to determine the intention of stroke patients to move their limbs in situations where such patients are still unable to use their muscles.

Early commencement of rehabilitation after stroke is known to significantly improve therapy outcomes. Although rehabilitation robots can be used to provide stroke survivors with the required dosage and intensity of physiotherapy, it is often impossible to use them in the first few days after stroke. Such robots mostly detect and augment the movement of a patient’s limb as they try to follow a prescribed movement trajectory. Unfortunately, in those first few days after stroke, a patient may be unable to move the affected limb sufficiently, or with enough force for the robot to detect their movement. Methods are needed to help the robot in such a situation, otherwise it might be impossible to use it effectively.

The OpenBCI Cyton will be used to detect movement intent from patients

One means by which the intention of an individual to move their limb can be detected even without obvious verbal or non-verbal cues is by extracting information from EEG signals acquired from parts of their brain such as the sensorimotor cortex. Based on existing results in the literature, the IR3G is planning to use information extracted from the EEG of stroke survivors as they use PULSR, in order to determine when they are trying to move their hand.

Why is this important?

The loss of motor functions that accompanies stroke has a devastating impact on quality of life and productivity on a personal and global scale. Nowhere else will the consequences of this be more catastrophic than Sub-Saharan Africa. The region now has the highest stroke incidence and mortality in the world, but also has the lowest number of physiotherapists per capita. Consequently, stroke survivors in Nigeria for example typically get 3 sessions of professional-supervised rehabilitation per month, whereas the recommended minimum is 12 sessions.

The story is similar across Africa, which is why innovations in stroke prevention and management are extremely important for the continent. Rehabilitation robotics is one of such innovations that is approaching maturity. If this project works as hoped, it may ultimately lead to the recovery of hundreds of thousands of man-hours of productivity and improve the lives of stroke patients across the continent.

Who is involved in this project?

Dr. Kayode P. Ayodele leads the engineering group of IR3G. He is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering (EEE), Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), and heads the Bio-Signal Processing, Instrumentation and Control lab of the Department.

Other members of the IR3G engineering group include Dr. A.M Jubril (Senior Lecturer in Control Engineering and Head, Department of EEE, OAU)  and Prof. P. Ogunbona of the School of Computing and Information Technology, University of Wollongong, Australia.

Mr. K.S. Ogunba and Mr. O.T. Akinniyi are engineering graduate students involved in the project.

The medical group of IR3G is headed by Prof. M.A. Komolafe, senior consultant neurologist and Head of the Neurology Unit of Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital Complex.

Prof. E.O. Sanya, a senior consultant neurologist in the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Nigeria, coordinates the Ilorin site.

Dr. A.O. Ogundele coordinates the physical rehabilitation aspect of the project, while Dr. A.B. Fawale – a consultant neurologist – oversees the day-to-day operation of the medical group.

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