Physiotherapy Students Get New Tool to Learn Complex Fine Motor Skills

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A dummy device made from foam, induced with sensors can help the students understand the behavior of the actual spine.

At the University of Melbourne, a new tool has been used to master the complex fine motor skill that is required to assess and treat patients suffering from spinal cord pain, back pain etc. A device called SpinalLog is developed in the School of Computing and Information Systems and the Department of Physiotherapy at the University of Melbourne. This device looks and feels like an actual human spine. The SpinalLog is fitted with smart conductive foam sensors, so when the students apply pressure with hands and fingers on the spine during the assessment, the sensors measure it. It provides visual feedback on the student’s technique while they assess the spine.

One of the crucial parts of the SpinalLog is the pressure pattern. The instructor can teach the students how to apply pressure which can be seen on the visual display. The students can learn from those pressure pattern displayed on the screen. The display shows a 3-D spine, which visualizes the pressure exerted by the student. This 3-D spine is in correspondent with SpinalLog on which student is manipulating the force. The material used in the instrument changes its electrical properties, according to the pressure exerted by students.

Furthermore, harder and softer foam replicates different conditions of the spine, which help to understand different spinal conditions other than they would see in the classroom. Because SpinalLog, the ability of students to replicate the pattern shown by the instructor has boosted. Besides, the foam used offers a physical resistance, which gives a better idea about what’s it like to mobilize a real spine. This device has proved to be crucial for physiotherapy students as it enables them to practice safely before moving on to volunteer.

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