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Automated Therapy: Gregory Breuer

Major: Computer Science and Structural Biology/Biophysics

Greg’s project focuses on one of the most pervasive neurological disorders: autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  There is no cure for autism, so the development of techniques to assess and manage autism is of the upmost importance.  Greg aims to contribute to these techniques in hopes of bettering the lives of the nearly 1 percent of children afflicted with a disorder.  His project specifically focuses on the development of a computer program that can be used as a therapeutic and diagnostic tool to measure the progress of physical therapy (PT).

Autistic children often must undergo PT to develop various skills that do not come naturally to them, due to delays in their social and physical development.  This physical therapy, however, can be quite expensive.  Every time a child must be assessed for progress or directed in an exercise, they must go to a trained therapist.  Every visit requires a significant amount of time and money.  So, Greg’s project focuses on ways to automate some of these visits in the home, using a computer program to evaluate the child’s performance and to interactively communicate with them, leading them through certain exercises.  The computer setup Greg envisions will consist of a camera, to capture images of the patient and evaluate the different movements, and a robotic communicator, which could communicate directly with the children and assist them in their therapy.

Greg is being advised by Dr. Anjana Bhat (Kinesiology), who is also currently researching the use of robots to assist autistic children with physical therapy.  He is also receiving guidance from Drs. James Cole (Molecular & Cell Biology) and Steven Demurjian (Computer Science & Engineering).  In combining computer science and biophysics to work on his University Scholar project, Greg has shown an inclination to look beyond the boundaries of a single discipline to solve problems that affect thousands of people, providing an exemplary model for both interdisciplinary research and service.