New Robot Improves Motor Control Of Babies With Cerebral Palsy & Encourages Them To Learn Crawling

By Olivia Reese, Parent Herald September 21, 05:22 am

Babies with cerebral palsy lose muscle control and motor development. Crawling is one of the abilities that challenge them, and their brain damage discourages them even more from attempting to crawl. A new robot targets this problem and aims to help babies learn how to crawl.

Thubi Kolobe, a physical therapist and researcher at the University of Oklahoma, and her colleagues developed a contraption after finding out through a research that early intervention improves motor control of babies with cerebral palsy. The Self-Initiated Prone Progression Crawler (SIPPC) device is composed of a high-tech onesie and a three-legged, wheeled robot containing a machine-learning algorithm, Scientific American reports.

The onesie is equipped with sensors that recognize whenever a baby kicks or has shifts in weight. When the sensors detect these movements, the robot will push a support platform in the same direction and drives the baby towards a spot where he/she wants to go.

The researchers conducted a preliminary 12-week trial involving 28 infants with strong chances of developing cerebral palsy. The babies practiced crawling with SIPPC twice a week.

Those who used SIPPC were capable of moving around nearly a month earlier as opposed to the babies who didn't practice crawling with the help of the device. After a follow-up examination, the research team also found that babies aided by SIPPC were more likely to crawl on their own upon reaching 14 months of age.

Cerebral palsy in children can be officially diagnosed after he/she reaches the age of 1, Scientific American noted. However, there are some signs that may indicate that a baby has cerebral palsy such as low muscle tone (the baby feels floppy when picked up or carried), muscles spasms or feeling stiff, feeding or swallowing difficulties, and favors using one side of his/her body, Cerebral Palsy Alliance listed.

Babies at risk of cerebral palsy are also incapable of holding up their own head while lying on their stomach or in a supported sitting position. In addition, they have delayed development that involves the inability of sitting up or rolling over on their own by 6 months of age.

Babies born prematurely are usually monitored by doctors because of their cerebral palsy risk, though the majority of children with the brain development condition weren't born prematurely. To predict cerebral palsy, infants can undergo the General Movements Assessment from birth until 5 months of age. If the assessment recognizes a baby as at risk of cerebral palsy, early intervention can be carried out.

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