Computer Games Aid Cerebral Palsy Care

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UT Arlington computer scientists are creating games to help make life more fun for children with cerebral palsy. Professor Fillia Makedon, chair of the Computer Science and Engineering Department, and her research team received two National Science Foundation grants to develop an adaptive, “cyber-physical” system called CPLAY to improve physical and mental assessments of children with the condition. Cerebral palsy can affect movement, muscle tone, or posture, as well as cognitive and other functions. It usually is caused by injury or abnormal development in the immature brain before, during, or right after birth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 10,000 babies are born in the United States each year with the disorder.

Dr. Makedon’s team is creating different types of game therapy that monitor how the affected child responds. As the child plays, the system collects different performance parameters, such as how fast the child responds, how long he or she plays, and how focused he or she is. Each game can be adjusted for speed, complexity, color, and other features to match a child’s capabilities or preferences. Families of children with cerebral palsy would be able to download the games from the Internet and play them with any mobile device. After playing, the collected data would be summarized and shared remotely with the child’s therapist. Makedon hopes the research results will spur a transformation in rehabilitation practices. “The feedback we receive from the children playing the games would better enable caregivers to use the correct rehabilitation regimen,” she says.

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