Professor of Mechanical Engineering and of Rehabilitation and regenerative medicine at Columbia Engineering and a member of the Weinberg Family Cerebral Palsy Center Scientific Advisory Board Sunil Agrawal, PhD has published a pilot study in Science Robotics. The study demonstrates a robot-driven device that improves posture and walking in children with crouch gait by enhancing their muscle strength and coordination.
When a nonverbal child is in pain, it’s usually the parent who acts as the interpreter. Does the child behave differently, or move in a different way? But being parents, they may be prone to bias. Healthcare professionals have therefore been seeking objective ways to assess pain and discomfort in nonverbal patients — such as intellectually developmentally disabled children with cerebral palsy — using self-reporting devices otherwise known as “augmentative and alternative communications” tools.
Most people can reach for a cup of coffee that they are not looking at and successfully bring it to their mouths. But for people with cerebral palsy who have hemiplegia, that proprioceptive skill is missing. They may not reach the cup at all, or if they do grasp it with the involved arm, they may end up tipping the cup over. Moreover, the lack of control on the affected side often gets progressively worse as these patients learn to favor the dominant side. To improve that scenario in hemiplegic children with cerebral palsy, clinical investigators are teaming up with engineers to devise robotic assistance devices to “retrain their brains,” with the goal of enhancing function on the involved side of the body.