Cerebral palsy – hand and arm rehabilitation
|Project Leader||Dr A P Basu BMBCh MA FRCPCH PhD|
|Location||Institute of Health and Society, Institute of Neuroscience, and School of Computing, Newcastle University|
|Grant awarded||5 September 2018|
|Provisional start date||1 February 2019|
|Provisional end date||31 July 2020|
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Cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition caused by damage to the brain before or during birth. It is the most common serious physical problem in children, estimated to affect more than 1,500 babies born in the UK each year. Children with cerebral palsy develop stiff muscles and bone and joint deformities which affect how they move and function in their daily lives. In approximately a third of children, the condition affects the arm and leg on one side of the body, causing weakness and stiffness, with hand and arm movements usually being the most severely affected. Children with this type of cerebral palsy, known as unilateral or hemiplegic cerebral palsy, tend to develop strategies and techniques to manage tasks with the unaffected hand and therefore neglect the affected limb. Lack of use in childhood can lead to irreversible impairment later in life. However, if children are encouraged to use and develop the affected hand and arm regularly from an early age, their chances of being able to use both hands are increased.
The research project
These researchers plan to develop and test a wrist-worn device and smartphone application combination for children with cerebral palsy affecting one side of their body. The device will provide feedback and reminders about movement during everyday activities to encourage and increase use of the affected arm and hand. The team will organise workshops to involve children, families and therapists in the design process. They will then provide the devices and apps to a group of 20 children aged 12 to 15 years with unilateral cerebral palsy, and to a friend or sibling of a similar age, to try out. They will collect and compare data on arm activity between the two groups and also talk to the children, therapists and families to understand their experiences of using the devices and software. The team hopes that their inclusive approach involving families and friends will encourage peer support. They want to find out: i) How practical and acceptable are wrist-worn devices in encouraging children to increase use of their affected arm? ii) What kind of feedback and data sharing works best to motivate young people to use their affected arm? iii) Does this approach actually increase activity of the affected arm? If successful, this project could lead to a new method of motivating children with cerebral palsy affecting one side of their body to increase use of their affected arm and hand in everyday activities and improve their chances of leading a fully-independent adult life.