rehabilitation engineering

Brain to robot: 'Move, please'

Using the power of thought to control a robot that helps to move a paralysed hand: a project from the ETH Rehabilitation Engineering Laboratory could fundamentally change the therapy and daily lives of stroke patients.

One in six people will suffer a stroke in their lifetime. In Switzerland alone, stroke affects 16,000 people every year. Two thirds of those affected suffer from paralysis of the arm. Intensive training can – depending on the extent of damage to the brain – help patients regain a certain degree of control over their arms and hands. This may take the form of classic physio- and occupational therapy, or it may also involve robots.

Roger Gassert, Professor of Rehabilitation Engineering at ETH Zurich, has developed a number of robotic devices that train hand functions and sees this as a good way to support patient therapy. However, both physio- and robot-assisted therapy are usually limited to one or two training sessions a day; and for patients, travelling to and from therapy can also be time consuming.

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