Health Sciences

Innovations in motor and cognitive rehabilitation using new technologies

Research and development work here has been geared to knowledge translation in the field of neurorehabilitation, both in children and adults. We have developed two innovative virtual-reality based solutions – Elements and Resonance – for rehabilitation in children with neurodevelopmental disorders and in adults with brain injury. These systems have been developed in R&D laboratories at RMIT and ACU, including usability studies. Our evaluation of both systems is ongoing in the field with our clinical collaborators at the Epworth Hospital (Melbourne), Prince of Wales Hospital (Sydney), the Maartenskliniek in Nijmegen The Netherlands, and the Evelina Hospital in London.

Program Leader: Professor Peter Wilson.

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Project Team: Professor Peter Wilson, Professor David Shum (Griffith University), Professor Patrick Thomas (Griffith University), Dr. Nick Mumford (ACU), Dr. Karen Caeyenberghs (ACU) and Dr. Jonathan Duckworth (RMIT).

Acquired brain injury (ABI) is a serious and costly health issue, resistant to therapy. In the RESONANCE project, we have designed and developed a cooperative interactive digital artwork that targets movement rehabilitation for patients with an ABI. Resonance builds on the idea of arts/science collaboration which is one of the driving strengths of our work. Using a suite of interactive environments, this system encourages collaboration, cooperation and competition via use of tangible user interfaces (TUIs). It has the potential to help clients develop both motor competencies at an activity level, and participation in a social and creative context. Although relatively new, the system has been exhibited at the Sonar music/arts festival in Barcelona this year. Visit Sonar website (New Window). It has also been used as a composition piece in a performance at the Melbourne International Arts Festival. Visit Melbourne International Arts Festival website (New Window). So keep an eye out for papers and exhibitions on Resonance in the near future, as we’ve already begun the initial trials with the system.

Resonance table

Project Team: Professor Peter Wilson, Professor Bert Steenberge, Professor Dido Green, Professor Karen Caeyenberghs, Dr. Gavin Williams, Dr. Jonathan Duckworth, Dr. David Shum and Dr. Nick Mumford.

Innovations in virtual-reality based rehabilitation of movement

This project explores and evaluates the efficacy of new VR-based rehabilitation systems for upper-limb function in adults and children. We focus on three main issues: (i) the view that overlapping issues of motor control and cognition in CP and severe DCD will be amenable to VR therapy (Elements system, pictured) and use of augmented feedback, specifically; (ii) extension of VR therapy using the Elements system from TBI to adult stroke, and (iii) evaluation of a co-located virtual system (called Resonance) for rehabilitation of Acquired Brain Injury in adults. We have deployed the Elements system over multiple sites, and have secured critical ethics approval at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney and with the NHS in the UK. Data collection will be ongoing in 2015 and 2016. A successful usability study has been completed on the Resonance system in collaboration with our clinical collaborators at the Epworth Hospital in Melbourne, and a multiple case study in 2015. A group comparison will be completed in 2016.

VR-augmented Rehabilitation of Motor and Cognitive Function

Study 1

Mild Cerebral Palsy (CP) / Severe DCD spectrum in children – Elements system
CI-Wilson (Melb.), CI-Steenbergen (Netherlands), CI-Green (UK)

Study 2

ABI (Adult Stroke) – Elements system
CI-Wilson, LI-Rogers (ACU, Sydney) and Aminov (ACU)

Study 3

ABI (Stroke and TBI) – Co-located Resonance system
CI-Wilson, CI-Shum (Griffith), CI-Thomas (Griffith), CI-Duckworth (RMIT), CI-Williams, CI-Mumford

Project Team: Professor Karen Caeyenberghs and Professor Peter Wilson

Dynamic reorganization of structural brain

The ability to hold information, and divide, switch and sustain attention are cognitive processes frequently impaired in traumatic brain injury (TBI). Our previous studies on TBI have shown that impairments in cognitive control are accompanied by disrupted neural connectivity characterized by white matter damage. In the present project, we will investigate whether a multidimensional training program (BrainGames) can improve cognitive functioning. BrainGames includes eight different games using IPad technology, addressing the wide array of cognitive deficits of TBI, including sustained, selective and divided attention, inhibitory control, verbal and visuo-spatial working memory and updating. Each game has adaptive levels of difficulty, whereby task difficulty is increased as performance improves. We will use state-of-the art white matter mapping techniques, to follow-up in vivo and noninvasively, dynamic structural changes in white matter tracts induced by a cognitive training program in patients with TBI. This approach promises to realize the full potential of tractometry to identify unique neuroimaging biomarkers as a clinically meaningful measure of the effect of cognitive therapy. Finally, our collaborative work in Belgium will also investigate the biological correlates of the white matter changes observed in the patients by means of an animal model of TBI with a similar long-term cognitive training protocol. The reconstructions of the white matter tracts in the human TBI project will be directly validated with histological analyses in the animal model of TBI and will offer opportunities to study neuroplasticity at different scales.