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A Danish delight! Progress in treating cerebral palsy and related movement disorders?

Posted Nov 04 2009 10:02pm

I delivered a lecture sponsored by the Danish Neuroscience Society and the Helene Elsass Center (a wonderful new research institution in the suburbs of Copenhagen) that has developed a state-of-the-art research and treatment center focusing on cerebral palsy. I was delighted to sit down with the Center’s Director, Peder Esben Bilde, to review new training software developed by therapists and University of Copenhagen scientists affiliated with the Center, and implemented with the help of a local computer game company. The software uses a conventional computer camera to dynamically record the location of colored bands strapped around a few fingers or hand or wrist or elbow or neck or ankle. The software tracks the motion of these bands in relation to stationary or moving computer-screen-located targets. About 50 exercises, each very flexibly graded in ability, have been developed to date. Many exercises require specific movements to provide cognitive answers, nicely integrating these two aspects of training relevant for rehabilitation in these movement-impaired children. Using this strategy, at their easiest levels, even very impaired children can initiate feedback-guided movement training. As the child progresses in training, given feedback on the child’s performance abilities provided by the software, the therapist supervising the training adjusts the exercise difficulties once each week. Although I have not seen their outcomes results and initial trials are uncontrolled (controls are difficult in this population because of the very substantial variability in performance abilities in these kids), the staff in this Center has a high level of confidence that they have made a breakthrough in treatment, and given my superficial review of their software and their high enthusiasm, they may well be correct.

The Helene Elsass Center, richly endowed by the Ms Elsass, a Danish benefactor who lived with cerebral palsy herself, is world-class, a wonderful resource for the Danish public, and in high likelihood, for the World. While their research and development initiatives are still at an early stage, this team is off to a grand start. Given the great need in the world, I am committed to helping them in whatever way possible, in their further refinement and elaboration, and in helping them bring them out to the millions of individuals who could benefit from their use. In future blogs, I’ll try to keep you informed about their research progress, and about how and when these tools might be more widely available. If you’re in reach of the Elsass Center in Copenhagen, and YOU have a child in need, you might consider raising your hand to help them, as well.

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