Smart gloves could enable stroke patients to relearn how to play the piano Science and technology news


Scientists have developed a pair of smart gloves that could allow patients with limb weakness to relearn how to play the piano.

After a stroke, abilities are often reduced or the hands, fingers or wrists are unable to move at all, making it difficult to perform manual movements.

Used the Exoskeleton Glove artificial intelligence, Touch sensors and moving components, called actuators, help mimic natural hand movements so patients can relearn manual tasks.

Researchers say the proof-of-concept gloves “teach” their wearer to sense the difference between right and wrong movements.

When a person wears the gloves to play the piano, they can see where the wearer made mistakes in their movements, allowing them to “understand their performance and make improvements.”

“We found that the glove can learn to distinguish between correct and incorrect piano playing,” said Dr. Erik Engeberg, a professor in the Department of Marine and Mechanical Engineering at Florida Atlantic University.

“This means it could be a valuable tool for personalized rehabilitation for people who want to re-learn how to make music.”

There are an estimated 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK today.

Strokes are one of the main causes of disability. Almost two-thirds of survivors leave the hospital with weak limbs, vision problems, and language and communication problems.

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As part of the experiments, the gloves were taught to play the children’s song “Mary had a little lamb” on the piano with pre-programmed movements.

Researchers said more work is needed to improve the gloves’ accuracy and make them more conformable. However, they hope that stroke victims and people with disabilities could use these gloves to restore arm function in the future.

Commenting on the work, Juliet Bouverie, executive director of the Stroke Association, said: “It is an exciting time for technology in stroke research.”

“The economic burden of health and social care in this country requires innovative treatment and care approaches that have the potential to reduce the devastating effects of stroke.”

Ms Bouverie added, “We hope that the results of this research will help build on our current understanding and develop effective treatments that help rebuild life after stroke.”

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