Using Visual Feedback of Movement for Rehabilitation

Area of expertise: Child, Adolescent and Family Health

Over the past decade the group has been pioneering the use of motion capture technology to provide visual feedback during rehabilitation.

In the 1960’s, former researchers from our group pioneered the subject of biomechanics, in which data collected by cameras on humans in motion and force, measured between them and the floor, was used to understand the mechanics of motion and the loadings on joints. This data helped the formation of the field of joint replacement.

In the 70’s and 80’s the group computerised these techniques and used emerging video technology to capture the movement. This work continues to this day and motion capture has become a routine way to assess rehabilitation outcomes and plan surgery.

Despite this, the technology has never reached a level of simplicity or cost which is suitable for use during routine rehabilitation. Fundamental to rehabilitation of movement is knowledge of performance and knowledge of result, in other words, how you carried out the movement and if the movement produced the expected outcome. We use this information to correct our performance of a task as we repeat it, and so gain or regain functional ability.

Over the last 10 years, with major funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, The Medical Research Council, the Chief Scientist office, Industry and charity, the group have been pioneering the routine use of motion capture in clinical environments to provide feedback to various patient groups, including stroke, joint replacement, fallers and children with Cerebral Palsy as part of their typical rehabilitation.

We have pioneered the techniques required, and working with two key industrial partners, Vicon Ltd and Motek Forcelink, we are producing the technology and applications needed for clinicians to implement these techniques during therapy sessions.

We are rolling out these methods to five clinical centres in Scotland.

The technology allows real time visual feedback of movement, supplemented by biomechanical and motor control information, allowing the patient and therapist to discuss movement performance in a non-technical non numerical format, to agree movement modifications desirable, to practice with feedback these movements, and through the use of purposeful gaming applications to undertake intensive training of the functional task, while maintaining interest and motivation.

The value of this enhanced rehabilitation to better clinical outcomes is being explored through a range of clinical trials, and while it is early days, the initial study data looks positive and promising for improved clinical and cost effectiveness.