Friday, June 29, 2012

Augmented reality for neurological education simulations

I am laying down a challenge for app developers out there who know more about programming than I do.  This challenge comes from a day-long IAMSE meeting course I attended over the weekend on state-of-the art medical simulation tools.  What I saw was some pretty cool simulation is available today to replicate many physical signs and to help train on various procedures.  These simulations have come a long way from when all Harvey could do was teach you how to pick up a murmur consistent with mitral stenosis.  Now you can check blood pressure, pupillary response, breath sounds, and the mannequin can even talk to you.

The trouble (from a neurologist perspective) is that current simulation is great for cardiopulmonary physiology and simulation, but it leaves a void for the neurological exam.  It can teach laproscopic surgery, mimic a prostate nodule on DRE, and a lot of other things.  But aside from pupils and having the machine shake to mimic a seizure (which I haven't seen, but from the description, it sounds like a very large Tickle-Me-Elmo type of convulsion - ie all trunk movement and not much arm or leg movements), the neurological exam is as yet uncovered.  I think a lot of that comes from the fact that the neurological exam will require pretty advanced robotic arms and legs to mimic things like fine finger movements, and strength testing.  Hence, essentially you can equilibrate an essentially comatose person's exam for the most part.

I see an opportunity for augmented reality to step in while the robotic simulation takes time to become more sophisticated and cheaper.  I could imagine using a real person as a simulated patient sitting in a chair, or a simulation mannequin in a gurney, and have the student hold a tablet up to the person so that the view screen is over the torso.  Then an augmented reality protocol could take the image of the arm from the simulation, and overlay a realistic-looking tremor.  Or you could overlay realistic ataxia with heel to shin testing.  Or you could overlay a realistic tongue deviation, tongue fasiculations, or palate deviation.  Thus, you could more efficiently create a high fidelity simulation with neurological deficits.  I've asked my bioengineer friend about this, and he said it could probably be done, it'd just take money to get off the ground.

So, there's my challenge.  Create an augmented reality neurology exam simulation.  I'd be interested to hear if anyone is already developing something like this, or if someone if any app makers would be interested in making this happen.

1 comment:

  1. Jeff, I was very happy to come across your blog. I agree with your comments about the difficulty providing standardized neurology clinical education and assessment. Our situation is further complicated by having students at multiple locations, with very different learning experiences, and grading done by different individuals. I have been working on an on-line clinical neurology education site that includes video-taped physical signs, and an on-line neurology video quiz for assessment. So far, I have piloted this at one (my) location (poster #3 at However, this can be accessed by students at multiple hospitals/clinics, and I hope can ultimately help to level the neurology education and assessment playing field at all our locations. I would love to talk to you about this further.