Exercise device helps 'envisage' recovery from strokes

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Media captionThe system gathers data from patients and lets them see how their movement is affected

Academics and designers have come up with a device to help people recover from the physical effects of a stroke.

Envisage uses motion sensor technology to show patients whether or not they are doing their rehabilitation exercises correctly.

It was created by a team from the Glasgow School of Art and the University of Strathclyde.

Focus groups suggested stroke survivors needed a way to keep motivated during the long road to recovery.

Linda Gordon, who had a stroke last year, said: "I think it's been a great thing, it's been really good."

At the age of 54, Ms Gordon is only one year older than BBC presenter Andrew Marr, who suffered a stroke earlier this month.

She lost the use of her right arm and leg - and has had to learn to walk again.

Reflective balls

Ms Gordon describes the after-effects of the stroke as "devastating".

"My mother had strokes, but you don't think it'll happen to you," she said. "You just don't."

Ms Gordon was the first patient to be enrolled on the Envisage trial, taking place in Lanarkshire stroke clinics.

Small reflective balls are placed on her leg and thigh, allowing motion sensor cameras to capture her precise movements and show them on screen.

A "swingometer" at the side of the screen moves into red if her position is wrong and green if she is doing an exercise correctly.

Occupational therapist Gillian Sweeney explained: "Occupational therapists and physiotherapists have always used verbal feedback and mirrors in therapy sessions.

"This technology allows us to wind it back and play it to the patient.

"Patients like to be able to see where they're going wrong and to get advice on how to correct that."

About 30 patients have used the Envisage programme so far.

Patients' homes

It is hoped that larger-scale studies will follow and the technology will eventually be a standard part of stroke rehabilitation.

Image caption The reflective sensors relay information on the patient's position

Research fellow Dr Anne Taylor, from the Glasgow School of Art, said: "What a lot of therapists said before is that therapy can be very prescriptive, very instructive.

"They're telling the patient what they have to do, whereas hopefully the use of the visuals will allow an interaction where the patient takes more ownership.

"The aim is to use it in patients' homes eventually."

Ms Gordon's long recovery continues and she is now concentrating on trying to get more movement in her arm.

"I just need to learn to be patient," she said. "I was so naive. I thought I'd be back at my work in a couple of months.

"Now I've spoken to people who say it takes two years to recover. It's just a slow process."

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