Researchers developing wearable tech for stroke patients

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, more than 400,000 Canadians are living with a long-term disability as a result of having a stroke. Many of these individuals have impaired arm or hand mobility, making it challenging to perform basic everyday tasks.

SFU professor Carlo Menon, who specializes in assistive and rehabilitation technologies, is developing wearable technologies that could significantly improve stroke patients' recovery.

“Many conditions, including stroke, can cause an individual to lose their normal hand movement,” says Menon, a professor in the School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering and the School of Engineering Science.

“We are creating wearable technologies to assist in the recovery process and improve motor function in the hand.”

Menon is a newly appointed Tier 1 Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Biomedical Technology, and one of four new SFU CRCs announced this spring. He also received a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Foundation Grant last year to fund his research.

The technologies focus on assisting individuals to move their fingers. Currently, Menon and his team are working on refining their prototype and ensuring that it accomplishes three main functions: monitoring finger movements, monitoring the force exerted by the hand and controlling external devices.

That latter function will also play a key role in assisting individuals who have a permanent injury and are unable to recover their finger movements. In this case, the technology will help the person communicate with a computer, wheelchair or other instrument needed to complete daily tasks.

“What we’re building will be portable, wearable and compact to ensure that it is comfortable to wear for a long period of time without interfering with the individual’s activities,” says Menon.

This research also has wider applications besides assisting stroke patients. For example, these technologies can help in designing advanced prostheses for upper limb amputees. That is how Menon and his team developed a bionic device that made news headlines last year. Its ability to provide an intuitive control experience attracted a Paralympic athlete to partner with Menon's team and compete in an international competition against other advanced prosthetic systems.

Learn more about professor Carlo Menon’s projects by visiting his research group’s web page.