Mobile music app offers new path for stroke rehabilitation

April 11, 2017

Dr Vallence is investigating whether a mobile music app can help in stroke rehabilitation. Photo: Travis Hayto

A new study will investigate how an easy-to-use mobile phone could retrain the brains of stroke patients.

Murdoch University neuroscientist Dr Ann-Maree Vallence is examining the effectiveness of GotRhythm, a mobile phone app which offers a simple individualised rehabilitation program.

“Each year 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke and in one-third of cases the stroke results in permanent disability,” Dr Vallence said.

“Currently, most rehabilitation interventions are based on intensive training and physiotherapy, which is both complex and expensive.

“GotRhythm offers a simple and inexpensive alternative form of therapy that can be tailored to an individual’s needs. And it’s fun!”

GotRhythm was developed by The University of Western Australia by exercise and health scientist Associate Professor Michael Rosenberg and software engineer Dr Alex Shaykevich.

Together with Dr Vallence, the research team now aim to determine the effectiveness of the app to improve brain function and recovery of movement in stroke patients. The study is funded by the Brain Foundation.

This app uses mobile phones and wireless wearable sensors to provide motor training that rewards the accurate completion of tasks. The app links to the patient’s music library, to allow individualised choice of music for therapy.

“One of the advantages of GotRhythm is that patients can perform as much training as they want, and they can do it at home” Dr Vallence.

As the patient completes training with the app, comprehensive motor performance data is collected.

The data are used to provide feedback to the patient about their performance, as well as to test the effectiveness of the intervention to improve movement ability.

Dr Vallence aims to recruit 20 chronic stroke patients to test the effectiveness of the app.

The patients will train movements such as reaching for a cup in time with music of their choice, where the music will play if they complete the action correctly.

The patients will play with the app for 30 min and their brain function will be tested before and after the session.

“When you hear music you naturally start to move. Studies have established that movement with music can activate several areas in the brain simultaneously. We’ve used this information to develop a therapy that will increase brain function,” Dr Vallence said.

“This study will enable us to start building a picture of what the app can do to aid in functional recovery after a brain injury.”

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