Interestingly, the researchers want subjects as young as 25 and as old as 80. "Age makes no difference when it comes to making improvements," Adamovich adds. Even more surprising, they've had people come to them as many as 15 years past their strokes and make even better progress than individuals six months after the event.
Today's work is based upon a research paper by Adamovich that appeared in 2006: "Sensorimotor training in a virtual reality environment: Does it improve functional recovery post-stroke?"(Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair). The paper detailed an earlier version of what's in his lab today. "We weren't using the kinds of robotic arms that we have now," said Adamovich. "Subjects played computer games using hand/finger motions in a special glove capable of measuring their finger movements." Additionally, the training used only hands, unlike now, in which the technology has enabled hand-training to be combined with robot-assisted elbow and shoulder-training.
Adamovich, a physicist by education, began studying how the brain controls hand and arm function because of an underlying interest in the basic research principles of brain and body movement, planning and execution. Several years ago, he moved into applied research. "We believe that motor control and learning are important when trying to understand rehabilitation," he said. "Neuroscience has demonstrated through animal studies that you can induce changes in adult brain networks through intensive stimulation and sensory motor training. And, thanks to the recent changes in technologyespecially the availability of robotsthis whole area of neuro-rehabilitation has taken off."
|Contact: Sheryl Weinstein|
New Jersey Institute of Technology