TWI team helps develop device to aid recovery for stroke victims

A team from the Essex Innovation Centre, a strategic partnership between the University of Essex and engineering research and technology organization based in Granta Park, TWI, is developing a project to help stroke victims recover by improving their recovery of hand and arm movements.

NeuRestore prototype, where the hand exoskeleton helps stroke patients move their fingers by recognizing their intention from their EEG signals. The device around the head is a wireless EEG headband. A replica of the device sits on the table to the left, shown for demonstration purposes only.

For the NeuRestore project, the partnership worked with a consortium including Generic Robotics Limited and Castalia Innovation Limited.

Generic Robotics created the robotic exoskeleton that covers the entire hand and arm, Castalia Innovation developed the virtual reality (VR) component of the project, while Essex Innovation Center worked on the algorithmic model and l integration with the robotic exoskeleton.

NeuRestore uses relatively inexpensive electroencephalogram (EEG) devices to monitor and record the brain’s electrical patterns while simultaneously receiving trigger feedback or action output. To get a full picture of brain activity, motor imagery (imagining movement) is used.

With the repetition of mental images of movements, an algorithmic model is calibrated to identify and classify when the patient shows true movement intention. The trained model is then paired with a robotic hand exoskeleton so that action outputs are generated from the classification of brain signals and robotic finger movement is synchronized with them.

The whole process becomes even more immersive when the patient enters a virtual 3D environment where they can see their hand move, providing a more realistic visual output of their imagined movement. This VR dimension can greatly help to establish a stronger connection between brain signals and subsequent physical movements in real life. The whole process becomes even more immersive when the patient enters a virtual 3D environment where they can see their hand move, providing a more realistic visual output of their imagined movement. This VR dimension can greatly help to establish a stronger connection between brain signals and subsequent physical movements in real life.

The NeuRestore consortium was able to start the project thanks to obtaining funding from Innovate UK in 2019.

In September 2021, NeuRestore was showcased at the University of Essex’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership Awards event, giving an overview of progress made so far and planned future developments. The demo session used a simple “Muse Brain-Sensing Headband” EEG and a pair of exoskeletons, with the user wearing the first exoskeleton and the second positioned remotely. This setup showed that the movements of the exoskeleton were exclusively triggered by the algorithmic model capable of classifying the EEG signals and were not the output of the movements of the healthy user.

NeuRestore prototype, where the hand exoskeleton helps stroke patients move their fingers by recognizing their intention from their EEG signals.  The device around the head is a wireless EEG headband.
NeuRestore prototype, where the hand exoskeleton helps stroke patients move their fingers by recognizing their intention from their EEG signals. The device around the head is a wireless EEG headband.

Panos Chatzakos, Director of the Essex Innovation Center, said: “This project is made possible by the complementary expertise and experience of the consortium partners who together combine their knowledge of the development and application of advanced medical technologies to deliver an all new stroke patient support system that is both affordable and effective in making a real difference in people’s recovery.

According to the Stroke Alliance for Europe, more than 13 million new strokes occur each year: up to 80% of stroke survivors suffer from upper limb impairment. However, patients can recover their motor skills through the brain’s neuroplasticity – its ability to adapt to new incoming information.


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