Groove Studio

Exploring action observation therapy in virtual worlds

Student Name Nickk Wellwood
Master Thesis 2015/2016

Upper limb rehabilitation after stroke is vital to the recovery of a patient’s range of motion, dexterity and strength. Rehabilitative practises are diverse and met with varying levels of success. This research is concerned with action observation therapy and its potential for neural reorganization through consistent repetition of prescribed physiotherapy exercises.

Action observation utilizes mirror neurons to stimulate neural strengthening and recovery.  The observation of an expert completion of an action by either the patient, a representation of the patient or someone else fires the corresponding mirror neuron. Mirror neurons’ ability to be fired under multiple conditions allow a patient who is unable to complete an action, in this case a physiotherapy exercise, to still receive the neural benefit just by observing the action.

In collaboration with sensory devices in a virtual medium, action observation will be used to create a dynamic and engaging simulation with the intent of providing a physiotherapy experience that progresses in difficulty. Incremental difficulty will ensure patients are being pushed to their limits in a controlled and monitored environment.

Neural reorganization requires a large number of repetitions of exercises over extended periods of time creating rehabilitative experiences that have traditionally been tedious and mundane. Gamification of traditional methods can engage the patient over an extended period of time By masking the repetitive nature of the exercises with a fun experience, patients can receive the full benefit of the treatment while performing enjoyable tasks.

Designer and Master thesis: Nick Wellwood

Creative directors and supervisors: Kah Chan and Edgar Rodriguez