Researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden have been using 3D technology, widely used in the film industry, to better analyze the everyday movements of stroke patients, and to develop more effective rehabilitation strategies.
In the film and video game industry, motion capture technology is used to convert people's movements into computer animations. Margit Alt Murphy and her research colleagues at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, have brought the technology into the research laboratory.
In a unique study, researchers used motion-capture technology to film everyday movements among roughly 100 people, both healthy people and people who suffered a stroke.
The 3D animations have provided a completely new level of detail in terms of mobility in stroke patients—knowledge that can help patients achieve more effective rehabilitation, the researchers concluded.
In the study, the test subjects were equipped with small, round reflex balls on their arm, trunk and head, and they were then instructed to drink water out of a glass. The motion is documented by high-speed cameras whose infrared light is reflected by the balls and sent back to the computer, where they create a 3D animated image in the form of a stick figure.
"With 3D animation, we can measure the joint angle, speed and smoothness of the arm motion, as well as which compensating motion patterns the stroke patient is using. This give us a measurement for the motion that we can compare with an optimal arm motion in a healthy person," Murphy said in a statement.
"Our study shows that the time it takes to perform an activity is strongly related to the motion quality,” Murphy added. “Even if this technology is not available, we can still obtain very valuable information about the stroke patient's mobility by timing a highly standardized activity, and every therapist keeps a stopwatch in their pocket. Our results show that computerized motion analysis could be a complement to a physician's clinical diagnosis and an important tool in diagnosing motion problems.”