March 12, 2014

WorthenChaudhariLiseCOLUMBUS, Ohio – A new study by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found that an interactive computer program designed as a rehabilitation biofeedback tool called ‘Embedded Arts’ is safe and well-tolerated by patients receiving occupational, recreational or physical therapy to help them recover from central nervous system injuries, including traumatic brain injuries, strokes and spinal cord injuries. 

The purpose of the system is to tap into artistic and creative neural pathways during standard rehabilitation exercises. Using real-time data from biophysical sensors, the program integrates creative process within rehabilitation therapies by transforming them into art,” said principal investigator Lise Worthen-Chaudhari, an assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation and associate director of the Motion Analysis and Recovery Laboratory at Ohio State.

The findings are published in the journal NeuroRehabilitation.

Researchers wanted to know if embedding the interactive arts processes within rehabilitation exercises would improve outcomes by improving patients’ attention and compliance, and enhancing clinicians’ tracking. Therapists reported that the rehabilitation biofeedback tool is useful for clinical practice and helped to motivate patients – some of whom lost track of time and focused with better attention and tenacity during difficult movements while using the technology. 

“This is the first time scientific literature has considered that interactive art could be used in a medical environment,” said Worthen-Chaudhari, who has more than a decade of experience conducting clinical research of central nervous system impairment and recovery.  “Using biophysical sensors, Embedded Arts transforms movement into art as part of the healing process for these patients. This enables patients to create fun, individualized images that represent their personal healing through the process of standard rehabilitation exercises.”

Interactive applications are extremely promising for use within acute neurorehabilitation, but they require more development, she said. The goal of neurorehabilitation is to improve the quality of life for patients who have suffered a brain or spinal cord injury, or who have a medical condition that affects their mobility or cognitive functions.

The 21 patients in the study were already receiving rehabilitation therapy at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center when they were asked to try Embedded Arts as part of their therapy sessions.

Movement of the body, measured by a motion sensor, was transformed into graphic art on a computer screen using a custom software application. Movement was detected in three dimensions and plotted in two dimensions on the computer screen as an abstract painting.  The user could see the picture being drawn on the screen in real-time during the movement performance, or could view the composition after completion. 

Eight inpatient therapy staff members volunteered to use Embedded Arts with their patients. These therapists played a dual role in providing qualitative data for analysis as well as executing the research. Embedded Arts was used at the discretion of these therapists with the patients they were treating during regularly scheduled acute rehabilitation therapy sessions of up to 60 minutes. 

“We know that these patients need to move their bodies to help them heal, and this is an artistic process to help people move more as part of their therapy. Movement is medicine,” Worthen-Chaudhari said. “We found that patients just go ‘in the zone’ and they come up with designs that are really beautiful. Each design is someone’s healing art.”

While other interactive technologies have been studied for acute rehabilitation, most have required cognitive problem solving or memory function that may be not possible for some patients with low cognitive function. Other therapies have explored the use of Wii or other handheld controllers that may be difficult, if not impossible, for patients with paralysis to use, Worthen-Chaudhari said.

Researchers in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (Worthen-Chaudhari, Marcia Bockbrader and W. Jerry Mysiw) and the Department of Dance (Michael Kelly Bruce) at The Ohio State University collaborated on the study.

This work was supported by funding from The Ohio State University Alumni Grants for Graduate Research and Scholarship, Department of Dance Vera J. Blaine Special Projects Fund, Medical Alumni Society and College of Medicine Bennett Scholarship.


Contact: Eileen Scahill, Wexner Medical Center Public Affairs and Media Relations, 614-293-3737, or

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