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When he was 10 days old, my colleague’s son, Mario, was diagnosed as having suffered a perinatal stroke that left him unable to control the left side of his body. Mario’s parents explored the science of mirror neurons for his treatment. Mirror neurons create a neurological basis for empathy, triggered when video of a repeatable, familiar movement is shown to any person. In simplest terms, after observing another person performing an exercise, a patient can more quickly learn this same exercise during physical therapy. As we learned about this science, we wondered – how could we make mirror-neuron rehabilitation more scalable?

Picture of Alessandro LombardiI’m Alessandro Lombardi, a Microsoft Digital Advisor. Microsoft Digital Advisory Services is a team within Microsoft Services. Digital Advisors bring their expertise, as well as Microsoft’s resources, experience and innovation, to empower organizations to reach their digital aspirations. We partner to drive a program of change to build our customers’ digital business, and our website can be found here.

KHARE - Using Kinect for mirror neuron therapyOur team created an approach that would speed up the recovery process for patients who have injuries or strokes, called Kinect HoloLens Assisted Rehabilitation Experience (KHARE). KHARE uses a combination of Microsoft Kinect, an Internet of Things architecture on Azure, and human telemetry to allow doctors, physical therapists, and neuroscience researchers to track exercises of their patients to predict rehab trends.

Our aim is to decrease healing times and increase movement quality for people with injuries—a proven benefit of tele-rehabilitation. KHARE builds on the benefits of simple video relay by adding three-dimensionality and intelligence, and eventually goes beyond rehab therapy.  By using KHARE, patients can:

  • Do part of the rehab at home, instead of having to find a way to get to the rehab center every day
  • Receive information about improvements and feedback about correct exercise execution from the system
  • Recover faster and get back to work or school sooner
  • Use HoloLens, especially to re-create their work environment for the post-rehab phase

Patient using KHARE to diagnose Multiple Sclerosis (MS)KHARE also helps doctors and physical therapists who can:

  • Verify the quality of the patient’s exercise execution using data measured by the platform
  • See the patient’s movements from different points of view using augmented reality
  • Confirm the benefits of the new rehab protocols compared with traditional ones
  • Make correlations with data about similar patient groups behaviors and results
  • Serve more patients than before
Alessandro presenting at IoT Solutions World Congress
Alessandro Lombardi presents at the IoT Solutions World Congress in Barcelona, October 2016.  He worked with INAIL and Microsoft teams to create KHARE.

As a result of my work with this team, I was invited to speak about KHARE at the IoT Solutions World Congress in 2016 – here’s my presentation.

What’s Next?
I recently met with researchers at the University of Parma to discuss KHARE for other groundbreaking rehabilitative uses. I am also working with Digital Advisors around the world to bring KHARE to athletes in their regions to support better training techniques.  It is my hope that any adult – whether workers, athletes, any adult – will benefit from Action Observation Treatment based on mirror neurons and this technology.

By tapping into the power of mirror neurons and modern technology, patients like Mario are making gains in ways that would not have been possible even a few years ago. Not only is Mario the protagonist in a TED Talk, and progressing in his rehabilitation, he is also the reason behind a movement to understand the causes and best treatments for perinatal strokes – https://fightthestroke.org/

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