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Robotic seal helps patients with dementia

A dementia research project in Brighton is exploring the benefits a robotic seal pup can provide.

A robotic seal pup is being used by nurses and therapists in Sussex to help provide comfort to patients with dementia.

PARO the seal


PARO the robotic seal pup

PARO the seal was bought by the University of Brighton to test its effects on patients living with dementia and learning disabilities.

The research, led by nurse lecturer practitioner Penny Dodds, has found that PARO helps patients calm down and relax when they become upset or distressed.

The Japanese-made seal costs £4,000 and has built-in sensors to react to sound and touch. Artificial intelligence allows it to 'learn' and respond to names patients give it and react to being stroked and spoken to. The seal also wriggles, turns, opens its eyes and squeaks.

Dr Dodds said: 'It is similar to pet therapy, but with real animals and pets there is a hygiene issue and a remote risk of the animal biting or chasing. PARO always behaves, has rechargeable batteries, is always available and will last about 12 years.

'I am impressed with PARO so far – anything that has a positive psychological effect and makes patients feel comforted and less distressed has to be worth it.'

Dementia affects more than 800,000 people in the UK and the numbers are increasing. At a conference hosted by think tank the King's Fund last week, assistant director of policy Richard Humphries said dementia represented the 'most pressing health and care policy challenge of our generation'.

For more information on the research being carried out at the University of Brighton visit www.brighton.ac.uk/healthresearch/research-projects/the-paro-project.aspx

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