ECU: Participants needed for stroke study using Australia’s only KinArm Exoskeleton robot

Research fellow Dr Onno van der Groen and Professor Ken Nosaka with the KinArm robot. Pictures: Martin Kennealey d486941
Research fellow Dr Onno van der Groen and Professor Ken Nosaka with the KinArm robot. Pictures: Martin Kennealey d486941

PARTICIPANTS are needed for a study being conducted in ECU Joondalup’s recently-established laboratory that focuses on unravelling the mysteries of the human brain.

Neuroscientist Dylan Edwards, who has previously worked at Harvard Medical School in the US and has now joined ECU as a Professorial Research Fellow, was the driving force behind the NeuroRehabilitation and Robotics Laboratory.

His research focuses on improving the recovery process for people who have suffered neurological damage.

“I’m interested how we can use specially designed robots to improve the rehabilitation of people who have suffered from a stroke or a spinal injury,” he said.

“The best way to help someone regain some movement following a stroke or spinal injury is to have them repeat movements over and over again to relearn the motions, using their available capacity.

“The advantage robotics offers is that robots can assist with performing the same precise movements with the patient thousands of times without getting tired.”

This has led to ECU acquiring the only KinArm Exoskeleton robot in Australia.

The $300,000 machine combines robotics and virtual reality that allows researchers to observe brain function through the movements of a patient’s arms more accurately than any human could.

“This allows us to examine how someone is moving in a much more detailed way, allowing us to design more targeted rehabilitation programs for patients,” Professor Edwards said.

“Giving someone even a small amount of movement back after they have suffered neurological damage can be extremely powerful.”

Professor Edwards is currently working with Onno van der Groen, Ken Nosaka and Manonita Ghosh to see if they can improve recovery of a stroke sufferer’s affected arm by training their good arm.

Dr van der Groen said they were recruiting ischaemic (a stroke due to an blockage rather than a bleed) chronic stroke survivors with a hemiparesis (weakness of the arm) as well as healthy participants to serve as a control group.

Participants in the study will train twice a week for eight weeks to strengthen one arm using a dumbbell.

Before, during and after this program, their sensory skills will be assessed with the KinArm Exoskeleton.

“During the assessment participants can’t see their arms and are looking into a 2D virtual/augmented reality display,” Dr van der Groen said.

“Because they can’t see their arms, they completely rely on their proprioception (sense of the relative position of your body parts) and sensation.

“Previous studies have shown that by eccentric training of one arm, you can increase the strength in the opposite arm.”

For more information, contact Dr Ghosh at m.ghosh@ecu.edu.au or call 6304 2341.