“The time machine started without any treatment,” said Danny Marriott, 71. It’s not in DeLorean From “Doc” in Back to the futureAnd But on a rowing machine. A very special bodybuilder’s device that allows him to make use of electrical stimulation, electrical impulses sent to his legs, via electrodes.
Danny suffers from a neurodegenerative disease that causes her right leg to atrophy, with no caregivers finding a cause or solution. For the past three years, she’s been coming in every week for a 38-minute paddleboarding. 50% of muscle mass gained, independence and vitality. “Since the fifth session, I have been able to go down the stairs on my own again. Every year I feel more comfortable, I have more strength in my legs, and more balance. Today I will be picking mushrooms in the forest without a stick.”
A multidisciplinary laboratory that studies motor skills
If Danny agrees to drive for an hour and a half with her husband every week, and hopes others will benefit from this innovation, it is because the sports center she goes to in Dijon is so exceptional. It’s part of Inserm’s core research lab, called Cognition, Action and Sensomotor Plasticity (Caps).
A unique unit in Europe in more ways than one. First through its multidisciplinary approach. About sixty motor skills teachers, researchers and engineers, along with physical trainers and caregivers from six departments at Dijon University Hospital, are working to better understand the brain-muscle dialogue.
The second peculiarity: Researchers are supported by advanced technologies: robotics, motion capture, lasers … “We are trying to understand the mechanism of motor skills in pathologists and athletes,” summarizes Charalambos Papaxanthis, Director of the Caps unit. Very different populations, but with similar performance.
Beyond computations, 3D images, and complex hypotheses, this fundamental research reveals concrete applications in many areas. Thus, electrical stimulation can help patients in intensive care, and therefore unconscious, to conserve muscle. This movement research “can also be used for better diagnosis. These precise measurements make it possible, for example, to predict cases of Alzheimer’s disease or autism, sometimes even better than clinical criteria,” explains Jeremy Jaffo, a research professor. Measures will be included in the future in the range of tests that doctors conduct. »
“Our goal is to find non-pharmacological solutions for rehabilitation,” continues the unit manager. Medicine has come a long way in diagnosing, but treatment is a bit like medieval! »
Studying the effect of aging on movement
But experiments are not only concerned with pathology. Which is why, in a large room, this Tuesday morning, sixteen cameras surround Claudette, who is 87 years old. She does not suffer from any disease and with a smile agrees to these tests to help understand the effects of aging on movement control.
“Often, when we talk about motor skills, we are concerned with Parkinson’s disease,” raises Frans Morey, physiotherapist and researcher. But in our demographic, it is very interesting to see people over 80 in normal ageing. To improve prevention Today, we do not know why people fall and what to do.”
3D images of Claudette raising her arm can help, in the long run, to learn the necessary movements to stay healthy. And in the event of a fall, to avoid relapses and the accompanying loss of independence. “We want to improve rehabilitation in the hospital, but also at home,” insists Charalambos Papaksanthis. Even once the recovery period and physiotherapist sessions are over, the French can continue to do the proper movements at home.
How do you use technology smartly?
By collecting as much data as possible, these researchers hope to understand how in normal times, after an accident, the brain and muscles interact with pathology… “The future is to intelligently introduce technology into rehabilitation, he insists. Connecting patients, collecting and analyzing data To provide individualized and specific rehabilitation.So we can imagine that one day, we will be able to tell an 83-year-old patient who is having a stroke that she should do this exercise to avoid such and such symptoms.
The unit manager warns that “it is not enough to have good software or a bot for everyone, the technology must know how to use it”. Evidence: Some hospitals or nursing homes have relied on humanoid robots to ease healthcare teams. These tools are then stored in a cupboard and become useless. So the research team is working on the interaction between robots and humans and their acceptance. So that these machines support future therapists, especially in nursing homes. The robot, set up by a physical therapist, can then encourage the resident to make certain movements, photographing and recording their gestures, then analyzing their progress, then relaying it to caregivers.
“The goal is not to replace the caregiver, but to supplement it,” insists Peter Domini, a researcher at the caps unit. And to be sure: Early returns reveal that older adults are quickly adopting these little robots…like little animals. “We tell them that they are the ones who have to teach the robots how to make movements, and that’s what highlights them,” Peter Domini resumes. ehpads in the region will “adopt” them in September.