The Tech Issue – Helping hand

Robots, video games, and a radical new approach to treating stroke patients.


The amazing journey of BLAM (Brain, Learning, Animation, Movement lab) into breaking boundaries between the

“ordinarily siloed worlds of art, science, and industry”.

With the Kata group, they want to

“Pixar-up the health-care and scientific space.”


I was shocked to learn that Patient’s recovery from stroke was closely linked to the degree of initial impairment, a “proportional recovery rule” – which is completely absent in conventional physical therapy. We are getting better at keeping people alive, but millions of Americans are now living for years in “the chronic state” of stroke: their recovery has plateaued, their insurance has often stopped covering therapy, and they are left with a moderate to severe disability (a patient lucky enough to have good insurance typically receives an hour each per day of physical, occupational, and speech therapy in the weeks following a stroke.

“…at such low doses that it has no discernible impact on impairment,”).

Recognizing this, the team led them to develop an ad-hoc for stroke rehabilitation video game because

Physical therapy is boring and difficult and uncomfortable, and I planned to ask my patients to spend two hours a day working hard in this virtual world.”

And why should we expect a poorly designed game to be an effective therapy?

“It’s like saying to somebody, ‘When you are sick, you have to settle for black-and-white TV.’ ”