Washington: In a first, researchers have come up with a smart jumpsuit that is capable of measuring the spontaneous and voluntary movement of infants starting from the age of five months.
The information which is subsequently gathered could possibly help in assessing abnormal neurological development, among other things.
The study on the smart jumpsuit and the related analysis method applied to seven-month-old infants was published in the Scientific Reports journal. In the future, the jumpsuit can also be used to study older children.
Previously, the quantitative tracking of children’s spontaneous motility in the natural environment has not been possible. Instead, children have been primarily qualitatively assessed at the physician’s or physiotherapist’s practice, which requires taking into account the fact that the infant’s behavior in the practice setting does not necessarily entirely match that seen at home.
“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.
The next day, it will be returned to the hospital where the results will then be processed,” explains Sampsa Vanhatalo, professor of clinical neurophysiology at the University of Helsinki.
Vanhatalo says that the new analysis method quantifies infant motility as reliably as a human being would be able to do by viewing a video recording.
After the measurement, the infant’s actual movements and physical positions will be known to the second, after which computational measures can be applied to the data.
“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,” added Vanhatalo.
The data gleaned by the smart jumpsuit is valuable since the detection of abnormalities in the neurological development of infants at an early stage enables early support.
Brain plasticity is at its strongest in early childhood and is benefited by measures supporting development, which are targeted at recurring everyday activities.
At least 5% of Finnish children suffer from problems associated with language development, attention regulation, and motor development.
Often, such problems overlap. The pathogenic mechanisms underlying developmental disorders are complex, but preterm birth, perinatal brain damage and the lack of early care, as well as insufficient stimulation in the growth environment, aggravate the risk of developmental problems.
According to Leena Haataja, professor of pediatric neurology, 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. Furthermore, they are a risk factor associated with exclusion from contemporary society.
In the future, smart jumpsuit can be used for the objective measurement of how various therapies and treatments affect children’s development.