25 April 2010

Neurorrobots to enhance quality of life of persons with motor disabilities

IK4 is taking part in the HYPER Project to develop “bio-inspired” development systems for replicating the natural movements of the human body. Medullar injuries caused by traffic accidents, cerebrovascular accidents or cerebral palsy are the most frequent causes of motor disability, a deficiency that seriously limits the quality of life of a significant number of people. The latest technological advances in neurorobotics and neuroprothesis could be a revolution for improving the processes of rehabilitation and for compensating the limitations that these people suffer in their daily lives.

This is the line of research of the HYPER project, in which the IK4 Technological Alliance is contributing their skills in advanced technology through their CIDETEC-IK4 and VICOMTECH-IK4 centres. Led by the Bioengineering Group of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), the project also enjoys the collaboration of other bodies given over to scientific-technological and medical research, amongst which are the National Paraplegics Hospital in Toledo, Fatronik-Tecnalia, the universities of Zaragoza, Rey Juan Carlos and Carlos III, and the Institute of Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC). Projected to last for four years and with a budget of 5 million euros, this project is financed under the latest call within the Consolider-Ingenio programme launched by the Ministry of Science and Innovation.

The ambitious aim of the project is to develop “bio-inspired” systems for replicating the natural movements of the human body in the most exact possible manner, thus representing a significant advance both in rehabilitation and in compensation for facilitating the everyday activities of people with motor disabilities. Through the combined action of neurorobotics and neuroprothesis, the goal is to restore the motor function of patients with medullar injuries by means of the functional compensation for the disabilities and to promote the relearning of motor control in patients affected by cerebrovascular accidents and cerebral palsy.

The main novelty of HYPER lies in the fact that, for the first time, the combined and integrated use of neurorrobots and neuroprothesis will be investigated to develop hybrid systems, and which will enable a more natural interaction between human systems and machines for rehabilitation and compensation of motor disability. This combination of technologies is a giant leap compared to current devices (exoeskeletons, prothesis, functional electro-stimulation, etc).

Brain-machine interaction and virtual reality
To this end, research will be undertaken into four main technologies: the direct interaction between the brain and the machine (reading thought and transforming it into movement), neurorobotics (exoeskeletons that adhere to the human body), neuroprothesis (the stimulation of muscles with low currents) and virtual reality (to facilitate learning when using new devices).

To achieve this adaptation to the real needs of persons, the project will place the patients in the research centre itself, through working jointly with clinics and expert users throughout all the stages of the project (design, development and trials).

Cerebrovascular accidents and medullar injuries are the most common causes of paralysis, with an incidence of12,000 and 800 cases per million inhabitants, respectively. Both conditions, together with cerebral palsy, are responsible for the majority of cases of haemiplegia, paraplegia and tetraplegia, all of which cause considerable limitation of mobility. This is why HYPER aims to help improve the quality of life of those affected by these disabilities. It is hoped, moreover, that the knowledge thus developed will subsequently be applied to the treatment of other conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.

The contribution of IK4
To achieve this ambitious objective, the nine participating centres will contribute advanced knowledge, each in their own discipline. In the case of IK4, VICOMTECH-IK4 will be responsible for adapting the technology to the needs of the potential users of these devices and for exploiting the potential of virtual reality in the project, which will involve a complete simulation of the human body. CIDETEC-IK4 will develop the sensors inserted in the protheses and measure the pressure to respond with naturalness and comfort to the movement ordered by the patient, and find energy solutions adapted to the devices.

No comments:

Post a Comment