SBIR Phase I: Palatal Device Providing In-situ Sensory Feedback for Patients with Vestibular Imbalance

Award Information
National Science Foundation
Award Year:
Phase I
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
Innervo Technology LLC
4704 Samantha Ct., Columbia, MO, 65203-0287
Hubzone Owned:
Minority Owned:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator:
Hui Tang
(573) 447-4389
Business Contact:
Hui Tang
(573) 447-4389
Research Institution:

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project is to develop a hidden and noninvasive assistive device that can provide in-situ sensory feedback of head movement for patients with vestibular imbalance. Loss of vestibular feedback in the sensorimotor control loop of the human body causes imbalance, which significantly increases the risk of falling, one of the leading causes of death in the elderly population. Patients with vestibular imbalance have reduced activity levels, which result in secondary problems including loss of muscle tone, decreased body strength, fatigue, and headache, leading to a significantly impaired life. The proposed device provides alternative sensory feedback to the palatal surface, a site that has been shown to possess high tactile sensitivity, but has not been explored for vestibular substitution. The objectives for Phase I of the project include: 1) development of a compact and energy-efficient electronic system that leads to a wearable battery-powered balance device; 2) development of methods for optimal electrotactile representation of the direction and range of head inclination and motion; and 3) preliminary evaluation of the wearable prototype for alternative sensory feedback and balance assistance in human subject experiments. The Phase I project is anticipated to demonstrate the enabling palate-based technology for cost-effective implementation of the device with desired dimensions and functionality, and the usefulness of the device for balance control. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is the improvement of balance in patients with vestibular disorders, which are prevalent worldwide due to aging, disease, ototoxicity, and surgery that cause degradation or damage of the vestibular apparatus. Data showed that in US alone several millions of American adults reported problem with balance. Currently no practical devices are available to provide in-situ sensory feedback of head movement for patients with vestibular loss. The proposed device captures this great market opportunity with its unique feature of being hidden and noninvasive while assisting vestibular patients in maintaining balance in various indoor and outdoor activities such as walking in a park, street, or shopping mall. It helps them to regain confidence in public settings, and increases their social participation, which will bring enormous benefits to their health and make their daily living more enjoyable. In addition, the device offers fresh opportunities for health professionals in the field of vestibular rehabilitation to conduct research on motion, imbalance, and treatments in uncontrolled settings. It provides a new tool for neuroscience researchers to study mechanisms of brain plasticity and perceptual learning involving use of palatal feedback in the sensorimotor control loop.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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