First prize for app that treats muscle disorders

First prize for app that treats muscle disorders

Innovative game by VUB scientists wins US foundation’s App Development Competition

Patients with motor or neuro-muscular disorders are often treated with physical therapy. But that is not always sufficient for successful rehabilitation. A team of scientists from Vrije Universiteit Brussel, led by Prof Dr Bart Jansen, has developed an additional technological treatment: the smartphone game Ghostly, in which patients make the character move by using specific muscles in their body. The game has recently won an award in America.

Ghostly, already available for Android, is based on the principle of electromyography, in which sensors on a patient’s skin measure the electrical activity of muscles and nerves. Such activity occurs when the brain stimulates a muscle into action.

With Ghostly, sensors are applied to the patient on the muscle that needs to be trained. These register muscle activity and transmit this information to the software, which translates it into movements in the game. This allows the patient to make the main character in the game world walk, jump, dive to collect coins or outsmart enemies. Ghostly consists of several levels and the aim is for patients to reach the end of a level with the highest possible score in order to unlock the next, more difficult level.

“Ghostly really works on two fronts,” says Prof Jansen. “First, it allows us to train very specific and different muscles in various but very effective ways. Patients can only play if they use that specific muscle. This obviously benefits the patient. In addition, such a game is a fun and challenging method of rehabilitation. We also consciously opted for an adventure game format, based on the example of Super Mario that everyone knows and can play.”


Foreign recognition

The gaming app recently won first prize in the App Development Competition organised by the De Luca Foundation in the US, which supports research and innovation in the field of electromyography and exercise. The jury praised the VUB scientists for their “strong rehabilitation app with engaging user experience” and awarded them, among other things, a cash prize of $7,500.


Research team

Prof Jansen and his team from the Department of Electronics and Informatics (ETRO), consisting of Dr Lubos Omelina and Katarina Kostkova, worked on the research with Professor Eva Swinnen of the research group Rehabilitation Research (VUB) and Armand Laumen (orthopaedics, UZ Brussel).


For more information, contact:

Bart Jansen

(0)2 629 10 34

0485/74 49 61   


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Sicco Wittermans
Sicco Wittermans Woordvoerder en persrelaties Vrije Universiteit Brussel
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