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Personal Powered Mobility for Persons with Traumatic Brain Injury

Personal powered mobility is well recognized as a crucial component in successful rehabilitation following severe physical disability. The ability of an adult to drive an electric powered wheelchair (EPW) functionally and unsupervised in a variety of environments is a significant determinant for employability, social access and self-esteem. The joystick is the traditional control device between a person with a disability and an EPW. Conventional movement-sensing joysticks (MSJ) provide access to electric powered wheelchairs (EPW) for many individuals, but some individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI) do not have the motor skills to functionally operate a standard MSJ. Individuals with TBI often have tremors, spasticity, weakness, and attention deficits, which can make it difficult or impossible to drive safely. The objective of this study is to develop and test a novel EPW control system which combines a programmable isometric (force-sensing) joystick and a head position monitor (HPM) that can be customized to address each individual's motor and perceptual deficits, leading to improved independent mobility. The benefit of these controls will be assessed in a two-phase clinical study. The first phase assesses the participant.s wheelchair driving ability by navigating through a virtual environment. The patient.s performance time and the number of times the virtual wheelchair deviates from the correct path are calculated. During the second phase, directed by the results from phase one, participants will operate their chairs in surroundings that replicate real-world mobility challenges (e.g., maneuver around furniture and bathroom fixtures, driving across carpet and pavement and driving up and down curb cuts and ramps).

Registry Project Number: 434
Lead Investigator: Zafonte, R
Lead Center for Project: University of Pittsburgh
Expected Completion: 10/20/2007
Type: Local
Status of Project: Latest Information Shown

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