A Queen’s University neuroscientist presented a new medical tool – the KINARM Assessment Station – at the world’s largest neuroscience conference in San Diego this month. The station is expected to significantly improve the way healthcare workers assess patients suffering from brain injuries and disease.
This new technology, the only objective tool for assessing brain function, will greatly benefit clinical researchers to develop better therapies for treating these injuries and medical conditions.
“The beauty of this system is it that it captures subtle deficits caused by a brain injury that are not measured by traditional tests,” says its inventor, Dr. Stephen Scott, a professor at The Centre for Neuroscience Studies at Queen’s. “Traditional testing methods, such as touching a finger to the nose or bouncing a ball, just don’t capture the complexity of brain processes.”
The KINARM station incorporates a chair with robotic ‘arms’ and a virtual/augmented reality system that allows neuroscience and rehabilitation researchers to guide patient through a number of standardized tasks, such as hitting balls with virtual paddles. When those tests are finished, the system immediately generates a detailed report, detailing the patient’s deviations from normal behaviour.
“This system has the potential to do for the diagnosis of brain injury what X-rays did for diagnosing muscular and skeletal injuries,” says John Molloy, President and CEO of Queen’s University’s PARTEQ Innovations. PARTEQ helped to commercialize the KINARM system’s technology along with BKIN Technologies.
Understanding all the effects of a brain injury on a person’s capability to function in daily life will result in more effective rehabilitation programs. It also means a better understanding of the potential impact of brain injury, whether caused by accidents or by diseases including stroke, MS, Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy or fetal alcohol syndrome.
KINARM has potential to help contact sports players and members of the military, where impact-based head injuries are an occupational reality. This is particularly true not just for cases involving obvious injury, but also for minor injuries that could result in career-ending damage if the individual were to expose themselves to similar effects in the future.
Dr. Stephen Scott talks about the KINARM system on CNN:
Photo courtesy Queen’s University News Centre: “BKIN Technologies Ltd. co-founders Ian Brown (seated) and Stephen Scott say the KINARM will help health officials better assess brain function.“