Motorized device helps infants at risk for cerebral palsy

This may look like how Eleven started as an infant in Stranger Things, but it's actually a device that is designed to help infants who are at risk of developing cerebral palsy. This condition covers a range of early neurological disorders that affect movement and muscle coordination and can be caused from a number of factors. Those factors include brain damage during birth, infection, and trauma.

Typically, the condition goes undiagnosed until at least the child's first birthday but medical pros think that an earlier intervention could help improve the capability of the child. This is what researchers at the University of Oklahoma are trying to do with this strange looking medical device for infants. The creation was designed by a group of biomedical engineers and physical therapists that developed a motorized device to help infants at risk for the condition to develop motor and cognitive skills.

The system the team came up with is a small and flat robot that the infant lays on that has power steering and a machine-learning algorithm. The little hat that the baby wears has dozens of electrodes that track brain activity. The device is currently in a larger pilot study with 56 infants this year. The goal is to intervene with infants who are at risk of developing cerebral palsy at the critical stage of 2-8 months of age.

The scientists say that crawling is reward based process and if the infant tries to move and then doesn't move, something common in kids with CP who often don't crawl until age 2, the child stops trying to crawl and the motor and spatial connections in the brain needed for crawling are lost. The little robot device is called the Self-Initiated Prone Progression Crawler dubbed SIPPC and pronounced sip-see. It has a soft pad for the baby and rolls on three wheels. The outfit the baby wears is sensor-studded. Movement sensors send data showing how the child is trying to move and the system captures what the limbs were doing at that moment. If the child didn't use enough force to move, the SIPPC would move the child a few inches itself.

SOURCE: spectrum