Virtual Reality software brings hope to stroke survivors

December 22, 2015

Neuromender will greatly advance the recovery of stroke survivors.

Neuromender will greatly advance the recovery of stroke survivors.

Games Technology students and Computer Science lecturers from Murdoch’s School of Engineering and Information Technology are helping stroke survivors put their lives back together.

The team from Murdoch has worked with clinicians from the West Australian Neuroscience Research Institute (WANRI) to develop a computer-based Virtual Reality (VR) rehabilitation program called Neuromender, which will greatly advance the recovery of stroke survivors.

The Neuromender software captures detailed upper body data in real-time as survivors fly a ‘wing-man’ through a virtual world, with the task difficulty levels adjusted automatically by the system.

“Neuromender is a low-cost computer-based system that enables users to interact with a multisensory simulated environment in the comfort and convenience of their own home,” said Senior Lecturer and Project Leader Dr Mohd Fairuz Shiratuddin.

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Stroke is the number one cause of long-term disability in adults in Australia, effecting more than 50,000 Australians each year.

Currently within Australia, there are no established evidence-based VR rehabilitation programs with detailed, high resolution monitoring for the neurorehabilitation of the upper limb of stroke survivors.

As survivors use the Neuromender System, data is sent to the Neuromender’s central server, where survivors’ progress can be assessed online by Clinicians.

“Clinicians assign rehabilitative tasks to stroke survivors in their care. These tasks can be performed using any recent off the shelf sub $700 personal computer. The tasks have been specifically designed to be engaging and system is adaptive to keep the survivors’ motivation levels high,” said Shri Rai, Academic Chair of Computer Science and Games Technology.

Up to 75 per cent of stroke survivors continue to experience motor deficits associated with reduced quality of life, either as a direct result of the stroke itself or longer-term effects of disuse, inactivity and/or lifestyle changes after stroke.

“Hand and arm weakness is a common problem following stroke that substantially impacts on the quality of life of stroke survivors,” said Associate Professor Michelle Byrnes from WANRI.

“This VR rehabilitation program will have immense, positive, long-term implications for the upper rehabilitation and recovery of stroke survivors in the future.”

The motivation for developing an economical software system that could assist the rehabilitation of stroke survivors came from Dr Shiratuddin, whose mother is a stroke survivor.

“Neuromender is designed to be extensible, and will be expanded to include more interactive and engaging contents in the near future,” he said.

A pilot trial is set to begin in the summer of 2016 featuring 20 stroke survivors.

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Comments (3 responses)

Emma Walker December 22, 2015

Hello – I've just seen the segment on this story on the Channel 9 news. Do you already have patients for the trial or are you looking for some. My Dad is 67 yrs old and had a stroke 2years ago. He is able to walk and talk but with the usual affects from stroke. He lost feeling to his left side and has limited strength, his speech is impaired. I feel this would really help him improve as it is happening but very slowly and very frustrating for him as he was a very fit man before the stroke.
Would love to hear from you regarding this trial.

Emma Walker

Lynn Jones January 5, 2016

My 30 year old daughter suffered a stroke on 8/31/2015. The left side of her brain was significantly affected. She had a blood clot, unknown origin and a nonsmoker. The result was loss of movement on the right side, speech and comprehension. During these 4 months of recovery, I find she is very motivated to use technology. She is walking now with a brace, but right hand motion is limited and very frustrating for her as a former right handed dental hygienist. I'm very excited about this product, interested in the trials and availability. Please keep me informed. Thank you!

Fairuz Shiratuddin July 22, 2016

If you like to be part of the trail, please contact Fairuz by email.

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