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Rehab Robots Assist Post-Stroke Patients At BGU Lab

0 2 years ago

Take stroke patients, for instance. While for most stroke patients, rehabilitation requires physical therapy as patients need to relearn simple motor activities like walking and sitting, occupational therapy (relearning daily activities like eating and dressing), and speech therapy, formal caregivers are not always available due to budget constraints or insufficient staff, and informal caregivers (spouses, family members) don’t always have the skill set or the patience.

Prof. Shelly Levy-Tzedek says socially assistive robots, or robots that assist using social cues, can help support and treat patients in rehabilitation from stroke or other conditions when human caregivers are not available. In her work leading The Cognition, Aging and Rehabilitation Lab at Ben-Gurion University, she regularly conducts studies with other researchers on how these social robots help improve the well-being of people who need rehabilitation.

Earlier this year, Levy-Tzedek, and fellow professors Ayelet Dembovski and Yael Amitai, published the methodology for their system and the initial results of a study that highlighted the use of socially assistive robots that support patients dealing with stroke. The team developed a robot-based gamified exercise platform for long-term post-stroke rehabilitation, came up with seven gamified based on functional tasks, and used the semi-humanoid robot Pepper manufactured by Softbank Robotics for the study.

The study looked at mixed attitudes towards the robots, motivation for use, and the differences in interaction between the patient and a human therapist vs. a patient and an assistive robot. The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Rehabilitation Science.

Socially assistive robots “help the person, not physically – they don’t move their limbs or they don’t move something in the world for the person – but they get them to do something themselves. So one of the biggest projects in the lab in the past few years has been a socially assistive robot that helps people who’ve had a stroke, do their exercise,” Prof. Shelly Levy-Tzedek tells NoCamels.

While the person can do the exercise on their own, Prof. Levy-Tzedek says socially assistive robots can provide extra benefits like motivation, companionship, and a gamified system that could make the patient feel like he is playing a game rather than relearning skills or completing tasks.

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