New wearable sensors measure a patient's ability to swallow and speak while also enabling at-home monitoring

Recovering after a stroke is a grueling process not only because of how physically challenging it is, but also because it can be difficult for doctors and patients to measure and track recovery progress. To help patients regain their ability to speak after a stroke, scientists at Northwestern University have developed what they are calling a breakthrough in medical technology, using stretchable sensors to measure patients’ speech patterns and ability to swallow.

Developed in the lab of Northwestern University engineering professor John A. Rogers in partnership with Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, the sensors aid in the diagnosis and treatment of aphasia, a communication disorder associated with stroke. The sensors stick directly to the skin, moving with the body and providing detailed health metrics including heart function, muscle activity and quality of sleep. This represents a major jump forward in the tools that speech-language pathologists have traditionally used to monitor patients’ speech function, such as microphones, which cannot distinguish between a patients’ voice and ambient noise, making it more difficult to measure a patient's speech abilities.

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