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A technology most famous for its use in Hollywood movies is now a rehabilitation tool for those who have experienced a stroke or traumatic brain injury.

Motion capture technology is a staple of blockbuster films. You may have seen A-listers like Tom Hanks or Jim Carrey in behind-the-scenes bonus features dressed in what looks like spandex suits covered in ping-pong balls. Those small spheres are actually reflective markers, which are tracked by infrared cameras during an actor’s performance. The data from those cameras is then used by Hollywood visual effects artists to give computer-generated characters realistic movement.

That very same technology is being used by hospitals to analyze the movements of patients with mobility-limiting conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. Physical therapists can use the data from the motion capture system to make treatment recommendations.

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Paolo Bonato, the director of the Motion Analysis Lab at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, stressed the importance of using such precise technology.

“The system here provides us with the ability to characterize movement abnormalities with high accuracy, which is, as you can easily imagine, really necessary for surgical evaluations,” he said.

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In the video above, watch as Bonato’s team uses its motion capture system to analyze the gait of Bill Gramby, who has since regained a significant amount of mobility after a stroke in 2009 that paralyzed the left side of his body.

  • Advancing already developed “hollywood” technology to medical treatment deserves accollades. It should also be logical – just like with NASA’s microwave ovens (invented for astronauts food – and now everywhere) – thousands of stroke and other paralysing disease sufferers will benefit. Bring it on – keep this trend going !!

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