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Helping hand: A soft assistive device for upper-limb rehabilitation and assisted living

Project Description

Research project: Ageing is often associated with losses in muscle mass and function, leading to decreased independence and increased risk of injury. The effects of this loss of muscle performance can be partially mitigated by physical activity (e.g. exercise and physiotherapy) and assistive devices. However, the length of therapy that can be provided by the NHS is limited due to budget constraints and current assistive devices, which rely on traditional robotics, are expensive and difficult to design. This project will utilise new advances in soft-robotic technology to design an upper-limb assistive device that overcomes many of the limitations of traditional devices and aids in the rehabilitation and independent living of older people.

The student will create a soft robotic assistive glove with a dual purpose: i) enabling independent physical activity within a rehabilitation setting, ii) assist older people in everyday functional tasks by providing extra strength to the upper limb. Recent advances in soft robotics will allow the device to be safe, easy to use and flexible, accommodating a variety of needs. The “soft glove” will also contain embedded sensors and a control/monitoring unit to ensure safety and provide the adequate levels of assistance. Data regarding the use of the device will also be stored and made accessible to therapists and clinicians (if and when needed).

The Walton Centre will provide clinical input on older people’s needs and on the types of assisted movement required during rehabilitation. Fourth supervisor is Dr Ganesh Bavikatte at The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust.

For more details on the research project please contact the supervisors:
Dr Paolo Paoletti, Dept of Mechanical, Materials and Aerospace Engineering, School of Engineering
Dr James Gardiner, Musculoskeletal Biology II, Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease

Please apply by sending CV and letter of application to Ms Diane Ashton

Training: The University of Liverpool is setting up a Doctoral Network in Technologies for Healthy Ageing to train the next generation of physical scientists and engineers to develop novel technologies and devices to address the challenges faced by older people and our clinical colleagues who work with them. It is structured around three healthy ageing challenges; prolonging independence, maintaining wellness and accelerating recovery.

All students will undertake a specific training programme in conjunction with their research project. A range of training modules have been designed to provide the student cohort with the high levels of scientific knowledge and engineering expertise needed for research and development of devices and technologies appropriate for the Healthy Ageing agenda. Through this approach our students will learn skills that will provide them with a unique advantage to develop technologies appropriate for this community and significantly enhance their employability in this emerging field. At the start of the programme students will have a masterclass session with a consultant in clinical geriatric medicine, a therapist and a social worker to introduce them to the challenges of the older person in the community through case studies. Each student will spend a week with a Consultant Geriatrician in clinics and community visits. This clinician will remain in contact with the student throughout their PhD in the role of a mentor to maintain the interface between their projects and the healthcare challenges. Innovative training sessions will ensure the training and research is grounded in real world challenges and have been constructed to provide Essential Transferable Skills and Subject Broadening Skills. The student will be a member of the Liverpool Doctoral College which provides further training opportunities over all three years of the PGR programme, and includes Inductions (general and safety), E-learning (e.g. Good Research Practice), seminars (presenting as well as attending), outreach opportunities and journal clubs.

Funding Notes

Studentships will be funded for 3.5 years covering the home fees and typical Research Council stipend.
Research Council Doctoral stipend levels and indicative fees for 2019
• National Minimum Doctoral Stipend for 2019/20 is £15,009
• Research Councils UK Indicative Fee Level for 2019/20 is £4,327

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