Researchers develop “smart jumpsuit” to spontaneously measure infants’ movements


PTI, Feb 16, 2020, 6:06 PM IST

London: In a first, researchers have developed a smart jumpsuit that accurately measures the spontaneous and voluntary movement of infants from the age of five months, an advance that may aid in the early diagnosis of neurological disorders affecting mobility.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, noted that the assessment of spontaneous and voluntary movements is part of the neurological examination of infants.

According to the researchers, including those from the University of Helsinki in Finland, the quantitative tracking of children’s motility in their natural environment has not been possible.

They said until now children have been primarily qualitatively assessed at the physician’s or physiotherapist’s practice.

This requires taking into account the fact that the infant’s behavior in the practice setting does not necessarily match that seen at home, the scientists noted.

“The smart jumpsuit provides us with the first opportunity to quantify infants’ spontaneous and voluntary movements outside the laboratory. The child can be sent back home with the suit for the rest of the day,” explained study co-author Sampsa Vanhatalo from the University of Helsinki.

According to the researchers, the data obtained from the smart jumpsuit is valuable, since the detection of abnormalities in the neurological development of infants at an early stage enables early support.

They said the ability of the human brain to form new nerve connections and facilitate new learning is at its strongest in early childhood.

These brain functions are benefited by supporting child development, which is targeted at recurring everyday activities, the scientists noted.

According to Vanhatalo, the new method quantifies infant motility as reliably as a human being would be able to do by viewing a video recording.

After the measurement, he said, the infant’s actual movements and physical positions will be known to the second, after which the data is analyzed using a computer.

“This is a revolutionary step forward. The measurements provide a tool to detect the precise variation in motility from the age of five months, something which medical smart clothes have not been able to do until now,” Vanhatalo said.

According to Leena Haataja, another co-author of the study from the University of Helsinki, developmental disorders in today’s pressure-dominated world pose a considerable risk that can lead to learning difficulties and obstacles in the competition for education and jobs.

“The early identification of developmental disorders and support for infants’ everyday functional capacity in interaction with the family and the growth environment constitute a significant factor on the level of individuals, families, and society,” Haataja said.

The researchers believe that a smart jumpsuit can also be used in the future for the objective measurement of how various therapies and treatments affect children’s development.

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