By: Nathalie Goodfellow, PhD, OBI Management Fellow

On March 24, I had the pleasure of attending the Childhood Cerebral Palsy Integrated Neuroscience Discovery Network( CP-NET), investigator workshop. The workshop was held at the Ontario Investment and Trade Center which had a spectacular view and even more impressive innovations. Attendees of the workshop were world-class researchers, clinicians, and entrepreneurs all passionate about improving our understanding and care for those living with cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy results from injury to the developing brain, often around the time of birth,  that can lead to life-long challenges such as motor function, communication and vision. In Canada, cerebral palsy affects approximately one in every 300 children. Throughout the one-day workshop, I was blown away by all that the CP-NET team had accomplished over the past year.  For me, I was the most excited to hear about the upcoming technologies for children with cerebral palsy.  Here are my “3- Must See Technologies” from the CP-NET workshop:

Virtual Reality Therapy. (Dr. Biddiss)

This technology takes advantage of what most children really enjoy: video games! This virtual reality technology is being developed to combine the low-cost and rewarding nature of virtual reality games with a rehabilitative-twist. The CP-NET team is working on designing games that can be customized for the needs and ability of the child.  With this technology, children will be able to enjoy playing video games that encourage them to build their motor skills. The system will include an extensive library of games and an online tracking system so that progress can be monitored as the child improves

Gait Enable. (Dr. McCormick and Dr. Morbi)

For children with cerebral palsy, using a wheelchair or walkers to move around can sometimes be challenging. At the workshop, the CP-NET team showcased the Gait Enable technology, which helps children to move around hands-free. The Ottawa-based company GaitTronic are the mastermind behind GaitEnable. This technology helps lift children from the sitting position and assists them in walking and preventing falls. Want to see Gait Enable in action? Check out the GaitTronic website.

Robotic Gait Training (Lokomat). (Dr. Wright)

The CP-NET team is also developing the Pediatric Lokomat gait trainer. For children with cerebral palsy that may have difficulty walking, this technology is being tested to help them take their first steps. Lokomat is an automated therapy on a treadmill that can improve walking ability. The dedicated CP-NET team is not only helping to develop the technology but is also trying to understand how it works. The group will be looking at how therapy with the Pediatric Lokomat might change the way the brain functions.

As a team, CP-NET is really aiming to address the mobility needs of children with cerebral palsy, from video game rehabilitation to taking the first strides.  As a management fellow working with the OBI research programs, it was so exciting to take part in this workshop. It gave me a window into how the CP-NET program is designing innovative therapies for patients. I can’t wait to see each one of these technologies in action!


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