Researchers develop robot that helps babies at risk for cerebral palsy to crawl


Researchers at the (OU) have designed a motorized robot that will assist babies at risk of developing the neurological disorder, cerebral palsy (CP). CP can limit motor function and mobility and is not diagnosed until a child reaches 1 year of age.

With trials from 56 infants, IEEE reports that the OU team’s motorized robot assistant could help strengthen and direct movement during a child’s crucial early development. The device features power steering, algorithmic learning, and an electrode-outfitted cap for monitoring brain activity all these functions will enable the baby to build the neural pathways that facilitate movement and also to help with muscle strength.

Although researchers have 6 to 9 months remaining on this study, so far this has been a good innovation which will aid in in the early CP detection and physical therapy. Here’s a video of an infant testing OU’s robot prototype.

It will take time to get through the “overwhelming” amount of data produced by the experiment, says OU engineering professor Andrew Fagg. Each session produces about 10 gigabytes of data, and the team just passed 1,000 sessions. “It’s wearing everybody down,” he says. “As soon as you start to crawl, the world seems like a much bigger place,” says Fagg.

We hope, with the crawling, we’ll set them up to build other capabilities that will be really important later on in life.

So far, parents are encouraged by their children’s progress and that has made them to ask if the can purchase the device the device for home use. But Fagg says the technology is not quite ready for that yet. “One needs to do a much larger-scale study with researchers at several universities,” he said. “In the long run, we’d like to be there, but we need to do the science first.”

Cerebral palsy (CP) is caused by abnormal development or damage to the parts of the brain that control movement, balance, and posture. Most often the problems occur during pregnancy; however, they may also occur during childbirth, or shortly after birth.

Often, symptoms include poor coordination, stiff muscles, weak muscles, and tremors. There may be problems withsensation, vision, hearing, swallowing, and speaking. Often babies with cerebral palsy do not roll over, sit, crawl, or walk as early as other children their age. Difficulty with the ability to think or reason and seizures each occurs in about one third of people with CP..

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