The Royal College of Art
Wearing your Recovery
Embedded brain stimulation techniques into smart textiles to provide a wearable platform of care for enhanced recovery of upper limb function following a stroke
When stroke disrupts the ability to use our finer motor control within our hands, activities of daily life that enable us to live our lives independently become affected. Clinicians are acknowledging the importance of self-administered care saying ‘it’s not what happens when we are there, but what happens when we are not there [that is crucial]’ (Kings, 2017). Yet patients are having trouble self-administering rehabilitation, often having to prioritize training over other aspects of their life which can affect mood. It is considered that quality of life should not be reduced in order to get ‘better’, especially when recovery can take many months or even years.
Around 87% of stroke survivors experience upper limb paresis (Conforto et al. 2018). Whilst in hospital, stroke survivors are seen to spend around a third of their daytime sleeping, alone and inactive (Bernhardt et al. 2018). Where this is due to various reasons, including simply having to come to terms with having had a stroke and a lack of resources, it has been widely reported that earlier re-training can benefit the level of recovery (Bierniaskie, Chernenko and Corbett, 2004).
This venture explores methods of supporting the recovery of upper limb function during the periods between training via brain stimulation techniques which are integrated within a smart wearable textile.
Garments are both functional and expressive objects which hold the ability to move with and be in direct contact with the human body throughout prolonged periods of the day and night. When considered in relation to needs for motor training, which Wade identifies as needing to increase in intensity by 240% (2017) in order to meet guidelines set out by the Royal College of Physicians (2016), garments provide incredible opportunities to support developments in stroke rehabilitation.
The technology utilises and re-purposes energy from existing movement within the body, to power key stimuli to support the recovery of the upper limb. As such, the approach re-thinks the dialogue held between the individual and methods of stimulation in line with the behaviour of the stroke survivor within the recovery process. The method used has been clinically proven in previous trials to support the reorganisation of brain function via remaining functional architecture left in the brain.
We have been working with body scanning to analyse body kinematics which is used to inform the fit and construction of the garment. The aim of this venture is to identify the type of garment that may generate the most impact, as well as refining methods of production of the technology and conducting further rigorous trials to identify impact on the recovery process in accordance to when the garment is used (acute or chronic stages post stroke). We are actively looking for institutions which may support these developments. Please contact Laura for further information.
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