MMU researchers have just been awarded a £90,000 grant to investigate whether looking in a mirror could help children with Cerebal Palsy.
The grant from children’s charity Sparks will finance a study into Mirror Therapy - which it is hoped will significantly improve mobility in children with certain types of Cerebal Palsy.
The study will be carried out by Frederik Deconinck and Alex Benham of the Institute for Biological Research into Human Movement and Health (IRM) and is the first of its kind into mirror therapy. It’s hoped that the treatment will be effective for children with certain types of the condition, such as Spastic Hemiparetic Cerebral Palsy, which restricts mobility and cause weakness down one side of the body.
Mirror Therapy works by placing a mirror box between the child’s arms so that the child can watch and mirror the movements of their unaffected arm, manipulating visual feedback to the brain. This causes neural changes which avoid or compensate for the damage which has been causing the paralysis and pain.
The therapy has showed promising results in stroke patients and amputees and researchers hope it could become a simple and cost effective treatment to significantly improve a child’s mobility.
The project will be led by Research Associate Frederik Deconinck: “The beauty of mirror therapy is that it could become an easily- accessible, cheap and low-tech treatment which could be beneficial for a large number of children with Cerebal Palsy.”
The project is set up and ready to go and the team are currently working with NHS collaborators to identify potential volunteers.
The researchers are looking for 28 children, ideally aged between 5 and 9, to take part in the study, with treatment carried out in the child’s home over 8 weeks.
Motion capture tech
Before and after the treatment periods high-tech motion capture cameras in the University’s motor control lab will capture the children’s movements so that any improvement can be comprehensively assessed.
Research Associate Alex Benham, who will be capturing the data and working directly with the children said: “It’s exciting to be involved in the investigation of a new therapy, and it will be interesting to see how effective it is. If it helps at least some of the children, it’ll be worthwhile.”