3-D tech from film industry can improve care for stroke patients

Can the healthcare information technology industry learn from the film industry? It sounds like an unlikely pair, but Swedish researchers from the University of Gothenburg have been using 3-D technology from the film industry to analyze everyday movements of stroke patients in order to better understand their mobility, according to an announcement from the school.

The results, which indicate that computerized motion analysis, used in such movies as "Avatar" and the "Lord of the Rings," can improve stroke patients' ability to move through rehabilitation, are reported in a doctoral thesis.

"Computer technology provides better and more objective documentation of the problem in terms of the everyday life of the patient than what human observation can provide," Margit Alt Murphy, a researcher from the University of Gothenberg, who brought the technology into the research lab, said, according to an announcement. "With 3-D technology, we can measure a patient's movements in terms of numbers, which means that small changes in the motion pattern can be detected and can be fed back to the patient in a clear manner."

For the study, test subjects were equipped with small reflex balls on their arm, torso and head, and then were told to drink water out of a glass. Their motion was documented by a high-speed camera, and the camera's infrared light was reflected by the balls and sent to the computer, where a 3D image was created. Murphy said with that image, they were able to measure joint angle, speed and smoothness of arm motion and compensating motion patterns.

"Our study shows that the time it takes to perform an activity is strongly related to the motion quality," Murphy said. "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."

In June, it was announced that a new three-dimensional tool that created a digital reconstruction of the human brain, called the BigBrain, was developed by German and Canadian researchers; their results were published in the journal Science. According to the Washington Post, the researchers used a 65-year-old woman's brain, cut into 7,400 slices, in building the atlas.

"The authors pushed the limits of current technology," Science senior editor Peter Stern said. "Such spatial resolution exceeds that of presently available reference brains by a factor of 50 in each of the three spatial dimensions."

Three-dimensional technology has been hot topic in the health industry this year. For instance, President Obama's BRAIN initiative, aimed at finding cures for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, hopes to map the human brain using 3-D technology.

In February, the National Institutes of Health granted researchers at Washington University in St. Louis a $2.25 million grant for creating 3-D models to study brain mechanics to gain a better understanding about what happens to the brain during traumatic brain injury. In April, meanwhile, it was found that adding 3-D digital breast tomosynthesis to conventional mammography, which is 2-D, finds more cancers and reduces false positive rates, according to a study published in Lancet Oncology.

To learn more:
- read the announcement from the University of Gothenberg

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