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Health News

Virtual reality is helping brain injury survivors regain use of their arms and hands

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Neuromersiv has created the Ulysses VR Upper Limb Therapy System Virtual reality (VR) to help people come back from brian ijuries.

Virtual reality is helping brain injury survivors regain use of their arms and hands

 

Survivors of brain injuries caused by stroke and other serious events can lose function in their arms and hands. An Australian company is creating a virtual reality therapy system to help survivors regain the use of these limbs.

Making brain injury therapy more engaging

Getting better after brain injury is hard work. Survivors need therapy to help the brain to heal. But therapy can be boring and repetitive. This means survivors don’t always do as much therapy as they need.

To make therapy more engaging, Australian company Neuromersiv has created the Ulysses VR Upper Limb Therapy System. Using a wireless virtual reality (VR) headset, brain injury survivors can do therapy by performing rewards-based, gamified activities in realistic environments.

An immersive environment

‘As soon as the person puts on the headset, they are totally immersed,’ CEO Anshul Dayal enthuses. ‘Like with gamers, dopamine kicks in and they want to keep going. So VR creates the motivation to keep doing your therapy. That can lead to better function recovery.’

The Ulysses VR software is available to buy in Australia and Britain. ‘I am proud we’ve taken this to market. We’re seeing people use it and give us positive feedback,’ Anshul says.

Wearable glove

As part of the Ulysses therapy system, Neuromersiv has also developed a hand and arm wearable glove. The glove helps users activate their muscles and receive real-time sensory feedback from VR environments. It combines two therapy modes with the VR software.

Functional electrical stimulation (FES) therapy helps brain injury survivors activate muscles they can’t move. Electrodes in the glove send small electrical currents through key points on the forearm muscles to stimulate extension and flexion.

New neural pathways

‘If the survivor is trying to brush their teeth in virtual reality but they just can’t grab the virtual toothbrush, the FES can assist with the grabbing action by stimulating flexion of the wrist and fingers,’ Anshul explains.

‘This stimulation creates a feedback loop that can be a catalyst for the brain to form new neural pathways to recover lost function. This is often referred to as brain neuroplasticity and is the key to long-term functional recovery.’

Neuromersiv has created the Ulysses VR Upper Limb Therapy System Virtual reality (VR) to help people come back from brian ijuries.

To make therapy more engaging, Australian company Neuromersiv has created the Ulysses VR Upper Limb Therapy System.

Sensory feedback

The team is also combining tactile feedback, or haptics, with the glove. For example, when users brush their teeth in virtual reality, they get a vibration effect on their fingers.

‘The goal is to enhance the sensory feedback because that helps the brain start to recognise the end of the fingertips, Anshul tells us. ‘When the person stops doing that task, they still feel tingling on the fingertips. That helps reactivate those neural connections.’

‘We are building a system that has multiple layers. Combining the visual and sensory aspects could improve functional recovery,’ Anshul concludes.

‘We think we are the first company in the world to combine FES, haptics and virtual reality.’

Technical challenges

The team had to overcome technical challenges to achieve this. Cameras on the virtual reality headset track users’ hands as they do therapy. The team’s first prototype had an exoskeleton design that impeded the hand tracking and overall usability. This was refined through user testing and design modifications.

‘For the FES, we created a sleeve with adjustable electrodes to wrap on the forearm,’ Anshul says. ‘For the haptics, we created a unique system of finger caps connected by soft & thin wires. It goes on top of the hand and doesn’t interfere with the tracking.

‘The next challenge was creating a wireless control unit for the glove that was compact and lightweight.’

Approval to sell the glove in Australia

Neuromersiv is planning a pivotal clinical trial to develop further clinical evidence on the safety and efficacy of the glove. With this evidence they will seek regulatory approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration to commercialise the glove in Australia.

‘When you work with people in their homes and clinics, it can be confronting see the challenges they can face after the brain injury. That inspires me to help people through this Ulysses solution,’ Anshul says.

‘I have seen proof that when they use the system, they feel motivated and excited. They feel this can really help their therapy, and that’s quite rewarding.’

The MRFF-funded MTPConnect Biomedtech Horizons program funded Ulysses with $994,000.

 

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Health News

Measles Alert Issued for Northern NSW Residents

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Measles Alert Issued for Northern NSW Residents

Measles Alert Issued for Northern NSW Residents

 

NSW Health has issued a measles alert for residents in northern NSW following confirmation of one measles case. The individual recently returned from Asia, where measles outbreaks have been ongoing, particularly in countries such as Pakistan and India. Those who may have been exposed to the virus are urged to monitor for symptoms.

Locations where exposure may have occurred include:

  • The Singh Company school bus route in the Murwillumbah area on Monday, February 5th, for both morning and afternoon trips.
  • Murwillumbah Hospital’s Emergency Department on Friday, February 9th, between 1:15 pm and 4:00 pm.
  • Murwillumbah Hospital’s Emergency Department on Saturday, February 10th, between 12:15 pm and 8:00 pm.

Dr. Valerie Delpech, North Coast Regional Director of Population and Public Health, reassured the public that while these locations do not pose an ongoing risk, individuals who visited them should remain vigilant for symptoms.

NSW Health has issued a measles alert for residents in northern NSW following confirmation of one measles case in Murwillumbah.

NSW Health has issued a measles alert for residents in northern NSW following confirmation of one measles case in Murwillumbah.

Measles symptoms typically include fever, runny nose, sore eyes, and a cough, followed by a red, blotchy rash spreading from the head to the body. The disease spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes and symptoms can appear between 7 and 18 days after exposure.

Dr. Delpech emphasised the importance of seeking medical advice promptly if symptoms develop, urging individuals to call ahead to their GP or emergency department to avoid spreading the virus to others.

She stressed the significance of vaccination, noting that two doses of the measles vaccine are required for full protection, particularly for those born after 1966. The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is available free of charge in NSW for individuals born during or after 1966 who haven’t received two doses.

Parents of children aged 6 to 12 months who plan to travel to high-risk measles areas are advised to consult their GP about the possibility of vaccinating their child before traveling. Additional doses of the vaccine are considered safe and are recommended if vaccination status is uncertain, especially before traveling.

MMR vaccine is accessible through GPs for all ages and pharmacies for individuals over 5 years old. Anyone experiencing measles symptoms or seeking further information is encouraged to contact their GP or Healthdirect on 1800 022 222. For comprehensive information on measles, visit the NSW Health website.

 

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Education

Enhanced Support for Early Childhood Health and Development Checks

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Health and Development Checks in Early Childhood Education (HDC) Program

Enhanced Support for Early Childhood Health and Development Checks

 

Early childhood education and care providers are being encouraged to avail themselves of grants aimed at facilitating free health and development checks for 4-year-olds.

In collaboration with NSW Health, the NSW Department of Education is spearheading the Health and Development Checks in Early Childhood Education (HDC) Program, aimed at making these checks readily accessible to all 4-year-olds attending participating services, including public preschools, community preschools, and long-day care centres.

Recent data from the 2021 Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) revealed that over 44 percent of NSW children do not meet developmental milestones upon commencing school. Additionally, almost half of all 4-year-olds miss out on their recommended health and development assessments.

The HDC program represents a strategic investment, with local health district professionals teaming up with early childhood services to schedule these checks and identify any necessary support ahead of school entry. The assessments cover various aspects of children’s health and development, including cognitive, social, and emotional development, speech and communication skills, motor skills, and physical growth.

Health and Development Checks in Early Childhood Education (HDC) Program

Early childhood education and care providers are being encouraged to avail themselves of grants aimed at facilitating free health and development checks for 4-year-olds.

Furthermore, the HDC program aims to boost the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children meeting developmental milestones across all five Australian Early Development Census domains to 55 percent by 2031, aligning with Closing the Gap target 4.

To facilitate the HDC program, the NSW Department of Education has allocated over $4 million to its HDC Participation Grant Program. This initiative aims to aid eligible services in accessing the HDC program more efficiently.

Eligible services participating in the HDC program in 2024 can apply for grant funding across three categories, with a total of up to $7,500 in available funds.

These categories include:

  1. Staffing support for the health and development checks program, such as providing relief for educators to complete pre-assessment questionnaires or support children during the checks.
  2. Space development for the health and development checks, including repurposing or refurbishing rooms within the service.
  3. Capacity-building initiatives to support children’s health and development post-check, such as attending workshops or completing training.

Interested services can check their eligibility for the Health and Development Checks in Early Childhood Education (HDC) Program grant and submit applications through the department’s website using the SmartyGrants platform. The application window closes on March 31, 2024.

 

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Health News

Tweed Hospital will shut its doors in three months’ time

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The new Tweed Valley Hospital will open in three months’ time. NSW Health has confirmed the existing Tweed Hospital in Tweed Heads will close.

Tweed Hospital will shut its doors in three months’ time

 

By Sarah Waters

The doors to Tweed Hospital will close in three months’ time, but questions remain over what will happen to the disused facility and site on Powell St and Florence Street in Tweed Heads.

A spokesperson for Northern NSW Local Health District confirmed Tweed Hospital, built in 1972, will close following the opening of the new Tweed Valley Hospital in Kingscliff on May 14.

Only a few community outreach services, such as BreastScreen NSW services will continue to be delivered either at, or nearby, the existing hospital site in Tweed Heads.

The spokesperson for Northern NSW Local Health District said ‘future uses’ for the aging health facility were being investigated.

“The outcomes of site investigations will be considered alongside local and state policy considerations.

“The NSW Government has a formal policy and process to guide the divestment of surplus property owned by NSW Government agencies and consideration of future uses.

“This policy and process will apply to the divestment of the Tweed Hospital site once services transfer to the new Tweed Valley Hospital and the existing hospital is decommissioned.”

The new Tweed Valley Hospital will open in three months’ time. NSW Health has confirmed the existing Tweed Hospital in Tweed Heads will close.

The new Tweed Valley Hospital will open in three months’ time. NSW Health has confirmed the existing Tweed Hospital in Tweed Heads will close.

The new $723.3 million Tweed Valley Hospital has been hailed as one of the largest regional capital health investments funded by the NSW Government.

It will allow 5000 patients to be treated each year and has been designed to provide the health services required for the growing Northern Rivers population.

Patients, staff and visitors will be able to access free parking at the new hospital.

There is also a bus stop directly opposite the hospital on 771 Cudgen Road, Cudgen, (opposite Kingscliff TAFE)

More information on transport options will be provided by NSW Health in the coming weeks.

SIDEBAR:

Community members are invited to take a behind-the-scenes look at the new Tweed Valley Hospital.

The Tweed Valley Hospital Community Open Day will be help on Saturday, March 16, 2024, from 10am – 2pm

Location: Tweed Valley Hospital, 771 Cudgen Road, Cudgen.

The public will have a chance to walk through some of the new hospital’s key services including the emergency department, maternity, intensive care, cancer care and outpatients’ services.

There will be an information and exhibition zone, fun activities for the kids and refreshments.

 To register, please visit here.

 

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