ARLINGTON - A
University of Texas at Arlington College of Engineering team has received two
National Science Foundation grants worth a combined $802,000 to develop an
adaptive, game-driven system to improve physical and mental assessments of
children with cerebral palsy.
disorder affects movement, muscle tone or posture and is caused by injury or
abnormal development in the immature brain, most often before birth, according
to the National Institutes of Health. Some 800,000 children and adults in the
United States are living with one or more of the symptoms of cerebral palsy,
the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation estimates. The Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention estimates that 10,000 babies are born in the U.S. each year will
develop cerebral palsy.
Makedon, chair of UT Arlington’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering, is principal investigator for the project, which will focus on
children ages 5 to 8 years old.
Georgios Alexandrakis, a UT Arlington assistant professor of bioengineering, with
proposing the collaborative research project.
“We talk to
a lot of doctors and they thought teaming up to build this system would be a
great idea that could benefit a lot of children,” Alexandrakis said.
is developing a cyber-physical system called CPLAY. Families of affected children
would be able to download different types of game therapy from the Internet.
system would allow the clinician to see a history of how the child performed at
different times of day, before or after a medication, and prescribe changes to the
game activity remotely,” Makedon said.
the team has discussed is using a “data glove” that would allow a clinician to
precisely determine the movement of the hand and each finger as the child
plays. The game collects and analyzes different game performance parameters,
such as how fast the child responds to the game, how long he plays and what
type of score he gets in the game. Such data could help therapists relate to
the patient’s daily life routine and occupational therapy treatment, Makedon
would develop simple games that could be programmed to the individual. Games
could be changed for speed, complexity, color and other features to adapt to a
child’s capabilities or preferences, Makedon added.
are important for diagnosis,” Makedon said. “The games can be played with any
touch screen computer or mobile device.”
could be programmed to increase in complexity as the patient becomes better at
the game, Makedon said. Occupational therapists would use these games to check
the impact of their treatment.
feedback we receive from those children playing these games would better enable
caregivers to use the correct rehabilitation regimen,” Makedon said.
physiological and clinical measures about the child also can be collected, such
as facial expressions, the level of concentration through eye tracking, how the
brain responds with a non-invasive brain-imaging headband, and verbal or sound
expressions the child makes.
addition, a video camera could capture and analyze facial expressions that
could tell caregivers what kind of difficulty that patient might be having with
those games, said Vassilis Athitsos, a UT Arlington assistant professor of
computer science and engineering who is also working on the cerebral palsy
also a UT Arlington computer science and engineering assistant professor, said
a camera could be mounted to measure emotion and facial change.
expressions give caregivers a lot of feedback,” he said.
will perform imaging of the activation patterns in the children using
functional near-infrared spectroscopy, or fNIRS. The process involves a fiber
optic device that is placed on the scalp while the child is playing the game. Near-infrared
light scans the surface of the brain to localize areas activated during play.
measurements will provide caregivers a baseline of brain activity for each
child, which is expected to differ with impairment level. The fNIRS
measurements will be performed with a headband device consisting of “brush
optodes,” which consist of fiber optic bundles that look like brushes so that
they can thread through hair to perform imaging of brain activation patterns
with increased sensitivity, Athitsos said.
technology was recently developed through collaboration between Alexandrakis,
Duncan MacFarlane of UT Dallas and Chester Wildey of MRRA Inc. and funded through
a TxMed consortium seed grant financed by UT
Arlington, UT Dallas, Texas Instruments and Texas Health Resources.
has been working with rehabilitation and physical and occupational therapy
experts and consultants from various institutions. Olga Dreeben, associate
professor at UNT Health Science Center, provides evaluation and subjects. Angie
Boisselle is an occupational therapist at Cook Children Hospital.
Maura Iversen, professor and chair of Physical Therapy at Northeastern
University, believes that computer-based diagnostic technologies also could be
used to assess many other debilitating conditions.
said she hopes the research results would lead toward transforming the way
rehabilitation is done in the 21st century, especially for chronic
diseases, by allowing the collection of valuable data from child activities at
home, prior to visits with the therapist in the clinic.
of system that is being developed also introduces new ways of educating the
physical and occupational therapist, Makedon said. It allows the therapist to compare histories
of other children, and get a better understanding of how the child performs
throughout the week. It also engages the parents and siblings in fun activities
with the child, said Monica Basco, a UT Arlington assistant professor in
want to do with this system is not only measure the physical, but the mental
state of the child as well,” Makedon said. “We think that would lead to a
better life for these children.”
We are also
hoping to apply the findings to other systems we are currently designing for
members of the research team include Zhengyi Le of UT Arlington’s computer
science and engineering department and Dan Popa of the electrical engineering
The CPLAY work is representative of
the research under way at The University of Texas at Arlington, a comprehensive
research institution of nearly 33,000 students in the heart of North Texas.
Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.
The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.