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Interactive art rehab motivates patients

Traditional rehab can be repetitive, boring

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Rehabilitation therapy can make all the difference for someone recovering from a serious injury. But it can be repetitive and boring. Now there's a new way to motivate patients and their moves become works of art.  It's working for Brad Burns, who was seriously injured in a car accident back in May of 2008 where he wasn't wearing a seatbelt.  His life changed forever.

"Fractured all of my ribs on the right side and fractured my pelvis and had lacerated lungs and was on a ventilator," Burns explained.

Now, partially paralyzed, it's taken two years of rehabilitation therapy to help him re-learn how to walk and talk. But recently, he tried something new.

"It's a lot of fun," he said.

An interactive arts program at Ohio State uses bio-physical sensors to transform Brad's movements into works of art.

"The whole idea is that the art, the product of the art, the visual art, would represent the struggle behind the art, and what's more of a struggle than recovering from a neural injury," explained Lise Worthen-Chaudhari, MA, MS, Research Assistant Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at The Ohio State University.

Each colorful mark he makes is actually data that can be analyzed. The idea is to distract patients and give them an opportunity to create while they work. 

"Something like this where you're concentrating on something else, and it's a little more engaging, and it's more entertaining, you're more likely to keep going," Burns explained.

In the first study on interactive arts to ever be published in a medical journal, researchers found patients enjoyed the program and some, like Brad, performed better than they did during standard therapy.

"He was moving for longer, more difficult exercises, with more focus" Worthen-Chaudhari said.

"You realize pretty quickly that you're working out when you start doing this," added Burns.

The interactive art therapy can help people with neurological injuries, traumatic brain juries, strokes, and spinal cord injuries. Researchers are currently finishing a study to test the technology on patients with balance issues. They hope those results will be published sometime this year.

Additional Information:

After a serious injury, illness or surgery, you may recover slowly. You may need to regain your strength, relearn skills or find new ways of doing things you did before. This process is rehabilitation. The type of therapy and goals of therapy may be different for different people. An older person who has had a stroke may simply want rehabilitation to be able to dress or bathe without help. A younger person who has had a heart attack may go through cardiac rehabilitation to try to return to work and normal activities. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, treatment of any pain and inflammation, and retraining to compensate for specific lost functions are other types of rehabilitation. Treatment usually involves continued sessions of one-on-one training for many weeks. (Sources: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/rehabilitation.html, http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/fundamentals/rehabilitation/overview_of_rehabilitation.html?qt=rehabilitation&alt=sh)   

TREATMENT: Rehabilitation often focuses on the following:

  • Physical therapy to help your strength, mobility and fitness
  • Occupational therapy to help you with your daily activities
  • Speech-language therapy to help with speaking, understanding, reading, writing and swallowing
  • Treatment of pain

(Source: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/rehabilitation.html)   

NEW TECHNOLOGY: A new study at The Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center found that an interactive computer program designed as a rehabilitation biofeedback tool called ‘Embedded Arts' is safe and well-tolerated by patients receiving occupational, recreational or physical therapy. This is helping them recover from central nervous system injuries, including traumatic brain injuries, strokes and spinal cord injuries. The purpose of the system is to tap into artistic and creative neural pathways during standard rehabilitation exercises. The program integrates creative process within rehabilitation therapies by transforming them into art. Therapists reported that the biofeedback tool is useful for clinical practice and helped to motivate patients – some of whom lost track of time and focused with better attention and tenacity during difficult movements while using the technology.
(Source: http://wexnermedical.osu.edu/mediaroom/pressreleaselisting/Embedded-Arts-Interactive-Technology-Helps-Patients-in-Neurohabilitation-Therapy)