In class PZ mentioned the condition cerebral palsy which I am not too familiar with, so I decided to learn more about it. Cerebral palsy is condition, sometimes thought of as a group of disorders that can involve brain and nervous system functions such as movement, learning, hearing, seeing, and thinking (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov). There are different types: spastic, dyskinetic, ataxic, hypotonic, and mixed. This condition is caused by an abnormality in the brain which can occur during growth in the womb, but can also happen within the first 2 years of life. Researchers are investigating the roles of mishaps early in brain development, including genetic defects, which are sometimes responsible for the brain malformations and abnormalities that result in cerebral palsy. I was interested in what recent research has recently been performed and found an article on science daily in which robotic therapy was implemented.
Krebs and colleagues at MIT have been using robotic therapy since the 1980's which has become increasingly popular. They have found that robotic therapy can reduce impairment and facilitate neuro-development in children suffering from cerebral palsy. These gentle robots for shoulder-and-elbow, wrist, hand and ankle have been used in trials for over 15 years and used on 400 stroke patients. Krebs and colleagues have the goal in mind that these robots will help to rebuild brain connections using robotic devices that gently guide the limb as a patient tries to make a specific movement. Children's minds are more plastic than adults so its hopeful that they will be able to establish new connections. They are trying to help patients improve on their ability to grasp objects, which is often a difficult task. Even though patients who experience a stroke will experience loss of large amounts of neurons, the remaining neurons can establish new synapses or reinforce dormant ones.
Results from three studies involving 36 children indicated that the robots helped the children reduce impairment and improve smoothness and speed of their reaching motions. Most research has focused on upper body therapy, but a project for a pediatric robot pertaining to the ankle has been initiated.