A computerised instrument that allows people to play music with the tip of their nose could give people with physical disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, the chance to experience music’s positive effects.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Not only could the interface allow for musical communication, it could also be adapted for speech, giving people with a physical disability the ability to form full sentences, rather than just providing ‘yes’ or ‘no’ responses.

"This instrument will give a voice to those who are all too often ignored, due to their physical disability," says Zane Van Dusen, a recent graduate of computer science and electronic media arts and communications at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York State.

Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that permanently reduces muscle coordination. As a result, people with the disorder often feel mentally imprisoned by their inability to speak or move.

Music offers a way to break out of the bonds of a physical disability because it gives patients a means to express themselves, the researchers say.

Van Dusen’s ‘adaptive-use musical instrument’ overcomes these challenges with an inexpensive webcam and specialised computer software, which he wrote.

In a pilot study at Rehabs Program in Poughkeepsie, New York State, children who used the instrument paid more attention to their movements because they were motivated by the sounds they were creating.

One nine-year-old child spent an hour creating a song, even though it required a lot of effort.

"The added benefit of all of this is that the children are working on their head control," says Leaf Miller, a professional musician and an occupational therapist at Rehab Programs.

Affordability is also an issue, she adds.

"The cost of the hardware and software is not going to be expensive and that makes it accessible," says Miller. "It can also be adapted for speech language pathologists to use for communication."

The team will be working to perfect the prototype and create additional interfaces for an organisation that fosters a unique approach to music, literature, art and meditation.

They hope the interface might offer a way for otherwise frustrated patients to express the song they have on the tip of their nose.

Link & Image: ABC