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Robot Therapy: a furry friend for dementia patients

March 29, 2017 — 

Pets can cheer people up, but what about a robot baby seal that helps patients suffering from dementia and other medical conditions?
Meet PARO, an interactive therapeutic robot in the form of a cuddly seal that can respond to touch, sound, light and temperature and can even recognize its name.

And meet its inventor Takanori Shibata who will demonstrate PARO and speak about the innovative field of robot therapy at a public lecture presented by the College of Rehabilitation Sciences, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.

Who: Takanori Shibata, PhD, Senior Research Scientist at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology
What: Demonstration and Presentation on “PARO: Neurological Therapeutic Medical Robot.”
When: Thursday, March 30, 12 – 1PM
Where: Theatre C, Basic Medical Sciences Building, Bannatyne Campus
The presentation will be streamed live here.

Robot therapy uses robots as a substitute for animals in animal therapy and is applied in the fields of patient care and welfare. Interestingly, the inspiration for PARO came from a baby harp seal Shibata encountered off the coast of Quebec’s Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

“PARO can be used by children to the elderly, who have dementia, cancer, developmental problems and brain injuries,” Shibata says. “Interaction with PARO improves mood, depression, loneliness and improves communication and sociability. In the case of the elderly with dementia, because of these effects, it will reduce aggression and wandering as well as reducing the burden of care.”

Clinical trials with dementia patients, for example, have found that PARO improved symptoms such as depression, anxiety and stress. The need for symptom-related medications was also reduced for these patients.

PARO can also  be used in other kinds of therapy similar to real animals, such as palliative care for cancer patients and building social skills in children and adolescents with developmental problems.

First commercialized in Japan in 2005, PARO was certified as a ‘neurological therapeutic medical device’ by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2009. There are now 5,000 PAROS being used in hospitals and care facilities in over 30 countries around the world.

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