February 14, 2007
A robotic therapy device may help people regain strength and normal use of affected hands long after a stroke, according to a University of California, Irvine study.
Stroke patients with impaired hand use reported improved ability to grasp and release objects after therapy sessions using the Hand-Wrist Assisting Robotic Device (HOWARD). Each patient had at least moderate residual weakness and reduced function of the right hand, although the affected hands were neither totally paralyzed nor unable to feel. Seven women and six men who had suffered a stroke at least three months prior participated in the pilot study using this robotic device.
"Most spontaneous improvement in function occurs in the first three months after a stroke, and after that things tend to plateau," said Dr. Steven C. Cramer, senior author of the study and associate professor in neurology, anatomy and neurobiology at UCI. "Robot-assisted therapy may help rewire the brain and make weak limbs move better long afterwards."