Stroke Rehabilitation with Robots
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Researchers in the United States have found that robotic therapy can help stroke victims regain arm movement even years after their brain injuries. The study will be published in the online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine on Friday, April 23, 2010.

The study, a three-year randomized control trial (RCT) of 127 veterans in the U.S, found that stroke victims who had 12 weeks of robot-assisted therapy for their affected arm had an improved quality of life compared with those who had no additional therapy beyond the initial post-injury rehabilitation period. These findings go against conventional thinking that rehabilitation beyond the initial period had little benefit for stroke survivors.

Patients with moderate to severe disability in arm function resulting from stroke at least 6 months to five years earlier were included. After 6 months of therapy, the 49 patients in the robotic treatment group demonstrated clinically significant upper-arm function compared with the 28 patients who did not receive specific therapy for their upper limb.

Importantly, another 50 patients in the study did similar high-intensity exercises with the assistance of a therapist rather than a robot and demonstrated similar improvements.

Dr. Howard Kirshner, a professor and vice-chair in neurology at Vanderbilt Medical Center North in Nashville, commented to CBC:

“The most important take-away message for stroke survivors is that therapy, whether using new-fangled technologies, or using intensive standard therapy by trained therapists, is essential for optimal recovery of function after a stroke.”
CBC News

The study used the MIT Manus rehabilitation robot, developed at MIT, and commercialized by Interactive-Motion Technologies.

Here’s a video of the robot:

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