A new, local invention is helping stroke patients and others undergoing rehabilitation at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital.

The tabletop screen helps stroke, injury and surgical patients who require upper limb motor therapy to regain strength, co-ordination and reactive skills.

The invention was created by a team of Glenrose researchers, technologists, occupational therapists as well as University of Alberta computing science staff and students.

Typically, rehabilitation patients perform exercises such as stacking items, reaching for cones and wiping a table with a cloth as part of their therapy. But the tabletop offers patients more engaging therapeutic activities.

"They get engaged in an activity and, before they know it, they're half an hour into exercise without realizing they're exerting themselves. They work longer and that can lead to a faster recovery," said occupational therapist Quentin Ranson.

Patients can engage in activities from popping virtual balloons, to finger-painting and arranging family pictures. The tool tracks hand movement and a patient's reaction, allowing health care workers to measure a patient's progress.

Recovering stroke patient Bill Presiznuik says he now spends hours and weeks learning to use the left side of his body after he was paralyzed.

Once or twice a week, the 65-year-old Edmonton resident uses the computerized tabletop to help build his strength, hand-eye coordination and memory.

"My left arm was totally paralyzed. I work a half hour or hour a day on the table and I can see a change every day," he said.

Since the $6,000-tool was first introduced in July, nearly 40 patients have benefited from the tabletop therapy. Plans are underway to add more units.

With files from Laura Tupper