A sensor-equipped computer program can accurately identify and count arm movements in people undergoing stroke rehabilitation, a new study shows. Now that it can do so, the next step, say the study authors, is to use the tool to define the intensity of movements that bring about the greatest recovery in patients’ ability to move independently and take care of themselves after a stroke.
The urgency of the work proceeds from the fact that arm mobility (as well as mobility in other limbs) is seriously reduced in more than half of stroke survivors. Each year, nearly 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke, according to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Led by researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, the study showed that the tool, developed at New York University and called PrimSeq, was 77% effective in identifying and counting the number of arm motions prescribed during rehabilitation exercises for stroke patients. Sensors strapped to the arms and back were used to track movements in three dimensions. The developers say they plan further testing on more stroke patients to refine their computer model, cut down on the number of sensors needed, and then develop a smaller prototype device that could be worn on the arm and upper body.
“Our study demonstrates that a digital tool, which is being designed to serve the same function as a smartwatch, is highly accurate in tracking the intensity of patients’ movements during stroke rehabilitation therapy,” says co-senior investigator Heidi Schambra, MD, an associate professor in the Department of Neurology and the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU Langone.
“Such an aid is desperately needed because counts made from video recordings or other wearable sensors do not offer standardized measures of precisely how much rehabilitation exercise each patient is receiving,” says Schambra. “Any improvements in exercise ‘dose’ received must be based on accurate, automated measures of the type and number of arm movements involved in a given exercise.”
Previous research in animals suggests that intense exercise of the upper body can promote recovery after stroke. However, research in humans shows that stroke patients receive on average one-tenth of the exercise training proven effective in animals. This, researchers say, is mostly because there was no easy way — until the development of PrimSeq — to accurately track their arm movements.
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