When blood supply to the brain is disturbed, it results in a stroke, and depending on which area of the brain is affected, certain functions of the body can be lost such as the ability to control limbs or formulate speech. Strokes can be life-threatening and survivors usually end up suffering from long-term disabilities. But technology can play a big role in helping with and speeding up the recovery process according to Roberto D’Angelo and his wife Francesca Fedeli.
Roberto and Francesca became parents in 2011 with the birth of their son Mario, but ten days after birth, the infant suffered a stroke which impaired his ability to move his left arm and leg. Following the stroke, there wasn’t much doctors could do other than suggest a slow rehabilitation program that has been used for decades. So Roberto and Francesca co-founded FlightTheStroke.org, a non-profit organization that combines advanced technology, healthcare, and social enterprise development to push for new advances in research and therapy for pediatric stroke survivors.
Microsoft’s Kinect v2 sensor played a vital role in realizing their goal as the device allowed for a new form of physical therapy. With Kinect, two children facing similar disabilities could watch and learn from each other, seeing first-hand the way others like them can overcome particular challenges and motivating them to do the same. Kinect enables children to activate their mirror neurons which fire only as they observe others perform a certain action, like reaching for and grabbing objects.
As a result of the advanced treatment with Kinect, 4-year-old Mario has made massive progress as you can see in the embedded TED video above, and so Roberto and Francesca want to ensure that as many children that have suffered from strokes have access to the same treatment. This of course can be difficult to accomplish particularly to those living far away from expert medical treatment and rehabilitation facilities. Their FightTheStroke.org organization has thus participated in a pilot program with Columbia University in New York that aims to conduct advanced rehabilitation remotely with patients at home.
Mario’s parents have also stressed the need to re-balance the relationship between medical professionals and patient and care-giving communities to promote and open exchange of health-care knowledge, rather than having doctors being the sole holders of that information. They also noted the important role that parents and caregivers should take to keep their children engaged and motivated to improve, something that technology like Microsoft’s Kinect can greatly aid with.
Kinect opens up opportunities in several different industries, and this isn’t the first time that Kinect has been used in healthcare. The video below details similar Kinect stroke rehabilitation techniques developed by Microsoft Research Asia, although it doesn’t include the social aspects implemented by Roberto and Francesca and instead motivates patients with gaming and fun exercises.
You can read more about how Microsoft and customers are making the most out of Kinect and its SDK at the VIA link below. Also, check out FightTheStroke.org to learn more about their innovative approach to pediatric stroke rehabilitation.