Testing robot help for stroke victims

Researchers from the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences at the University of Queensland, Australia, are about to embark on a novel experiment that could herald hope for survivors of stroke affected by a common neurological syndrome —spatial neglect— which leaves them unware of anything on one side of their body, affecting their ability to perform daily activities such as shaving and eating. 

The team, led by neuroscientist Timothy Carroll, is specifically looking for people who have suffered damage from a stroke to the right side of their brain and cannot now effectively detect anything on their left side. 

Volunteers will take part in a one-off two-hour session at the University’s St Lucia Campus located in the Australian city of Brisbane. 

The experiment is looking to enrol approximately 10 people. The session will involve participants performing a pen and paper task and a computerised simulation, first without, and then with, manual directional assistance from a robot, which will push their hand to the left, in an attempt to spatially retrain the brain. 

Current therapies have failed to show true promise, and involve people wearing glasses that incorporate prisms to help reorient their vision to the affected side.

Although this is a pilot study, Carroll and co-workers are optimistic that this neuropsychological approach will yield robust data that will form the foundation of future, larger trials. This could translate into feasible rehabilitative interventions for individuals who have suffered neurological deficit caused by this highly prevalent disease.

Prospective participants can contact the research team via email or phone for more information.

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