Dr. Holly Robson, University of Reading
In the UK there are over 1.2 million individuals living with the long-term consequences of brain injury. A high proportion (around one third to one half) will experience difficulties with language and physical movement in their arms and hands (motor impairments). Successful rehabilitation of these impairments requires many hours or practice. Unfortunately this cannot be provided by current NHS rehabilitation services. Neuroscience research has shown that the brain networks for language and movement overlap and are interconnected. Therefore, rehabilitation may benefit from combining language and motor activities together. However, treatment is currently separated across different health professionals. Physiotherapists treat physical impairments, occupational therapists treat limitations in day to day life and Speech & Language Therapists treat language impairments. Therefore, many hours of therapist’s time is actually provided separately. The proposed project will develop and test a therapy software that combines treatment of language and motor impairments. The aim is to develop a therapy software that can be used by more than one health profession to deliver therapy in a time efficient, personalised and motivating way. Health professionals and academics from different disciplines and experts in software engineering will work together to develop the software. The software is built on existing motion-sensor technology (Microsoft Kinect) that is able to track how an individual moves. The software will be piloted and tested with a small group of individuals with brain injury who have both language comprehension and motor impairments. The software will engage participants in rehabilitation exercises that require them to move their upper limbs in order to respond to language tasks (e.g. “find the cup”, “find all the things for making tea”). Tasks will focus on relevant day-to-day activities and be personalized to each individual’s level of ability. The software will record accuracy in responding to the language tasks as well as movement accuracy, symmetry and posture. The software will be evaluated by measuring improvements in cognitive, language and motor abilities, as well as the participant’s experiences of using the software. In the future this software will help people with brain injury engage in long-term rehabilitation at home.