Investigating new balance training system for spinal cord injury patients

These findings could lead more people experiencing the benefits of balance therapy.

TORONTO–A study from the KITE Research Institute investigates the feasibility of a new training system for improving the balance of spinal cord injury patients. 

Currently standing balance rehabilitation systems use laboratory-grade sensors that are expensive, not portable, and difficult to setup. 

The team looked at replacing the laboratory-grade sensors with a cheaper alternative–depth cameras. They found the depth camera outperformed the more expensive sensors when it came to tracking a participant’s posture.  

This could make standing balance rehabilitation training more affordable and as result more accessible to a wider population. 

The team published the results of their study in Biomedical Engineering OnLine.

The International Conference on Aging, Innovation & Rehabilitation (ICAIR) partnered with BioMedical Engineering OnLine to publish a special edition of the journal featuring full-length papers of the highest scoring abstracts from the conference.

The paper’s first author KITE trainee Derrick Lim goes in depth on his team’s findings below.

Which patient groups are most affected by this? 

Our target population are individuals with incomplete spinal cord injury; however, we believe that the system can be relevant and beneficial for other disorders with standing balance impairments such as stroke survivors. 

What did you find? 

We found that as a commercial sensor, the depth camera shows better performance than the pressure mat as an alternative to laboratory-grade force plate for monitoring a person’s whole-body posture. The depth camera showed high correlation and low errors with the force plate for the purpose of visual feedback balance training and functional electrical stimulation therapy. 


Why does this matter?

This is significant for translating a novel standing balance rehabilitation system from the lab to the clinic. One of the obstacles for making the system clinically feasible is the use of laboratory-grade sensors that are expensive, not portable, and difficult to setup. This study shows the potential of using commercial sensors as a replacement sensor in research rehabilitation systems.


What is the potential impact? 

This study highlights the significance of making the standing balance rehabilitation system accessible for both the patient and the clinician. Use of a commercial sensor in place of a laboratory-grade sensor improves the system’s overall accessibility and thus allows for a wider population to experience the benefits of the novel balance therapy.



Research Spotlight: 
Studying feasibility of using a depth camera or pressure mat for balance training

KITE Trainee, Ph.D. candidate at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at University of Toronto

Name of Publication:
Feasibility of using a depth camera or pressure mat for visual feedback balance training with functional electrical stimulation

Name of Journal:
BioMedical Engineering OnLine