According to the World Health Organisation, each year approximately 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke.
Of these, five million die and a further five million are permanently disabled, making stroke a major cause of disability.
In Australia alone 60,000 people suffer stroke each year resulting in impaired ability to reach and grasp objects in some 85 per cent of survivors.
Only half those affected recover the motor control and coordination necessary for useful arm function.
Without good arm function, the life of a stroke survivor is severely limited. Without effective measurements of arm function, research to find better treatments is also severely limited.
ArMM is a new portable device with the ability to measure the motor control of the arm and hand.
It collects data on the temporal and spatial aspects of key kinemic events in the trajectories of the arm and hand, indicating how the movement is organised in the central nervous system.
The current invention will provide a basis for the development of specific interventions for different groups of patients with deficits of coordination of reach-to-grasp and improve quality of life, and will also assist patients and clinicians in monitoring their progress in recovery.
Current therapies rely on subjective and unreliable observations of improvement to reach and grasp abilities and there are no clinical measures available to quantify improvement in motor control and coordination.
Researchers developing new methods of treating impaired hand and arm function affecting reach and grasp need to measure motor control to determine the impact of the treatment.
Motor performance measures give insight into how the brain is generating, monitoring and adjusting coordinated movements.
- Professor Paulette van Vliet – Physiotherapist and Neuroscientist
- Dr James Welsh – Engineer
- Professor Irene Hudson – Biostatistician and Modeller
Professor van Vliet is an ARC Future Fellow at the University of Newcastle. Research interests are recovery of upper limb motor control after stroke, evaluation/development of physiotherapy intervention for stroke patients, and motor skill acquisition.
Professor van Vliet works within the PRC for Brain and Mental Health and collaborates with researchers at the Universities of Birmingham, University of Norwich, University of Western England and Glasgow Caledonian University.
Dr Welsh completed a PhD in the area of system identification in 2004. Specifically, his PhD thesis studied ill-conditioning that arises in numerous aspects of system identification. He also proposed several novel techniques and methods to avoid the problems that are associated with this ill-conditioning.
Professor Irene Hudson is a mathematical statistician with an international reputation in the development of new methods for climate change research and methods to analyse markers/indicators in the diverse research areas of drug discovery, health informatics, bio-informatics and bio-statistics, and in stroke and brain research.
Mapping /modelling of micro systems (brain voxels, molecules, wood anatomy) and macro systems (global disease, climate change, prevalence, meta-analysis) underpins this work, along with computational intelligence.
Potential benefits and market opportunities
In financial terms stroke costs AU$2.14 billion each year in Australia alone but most sufferers do benefit from rehabilitation either in the home or hospital setting.
While laboratory-based motion analysis systems exist, they are expensive in terms of time and resources.
ArMM provides a simpler, portable way to measure movement and will allow motor control and coordination to be measured accurately in routine clinical practice and at home, something not currently possible.
ArMM has wide reaching applications as its use could be expanded to populations with head injury, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis, so it has the potential to make a difference to the lives of many people with neurological diseases.
The ArMM device will also enable sensitive measures that reflect central nervous system control to be incorporated into large clinical trials for the first time, adding significant insights into knowledge of the effectiveness of treatments for motor control.
ArMM is potentially beneficial as an adjunct to physiotherapy training of reach-to-grasp coordination.
The technology is currently at early proof-of-concept stage and a second prototype is almost completed.
The IP is currently being assessed. The technology is available for industry R&D partnerships.