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Drake Center is Site for $3.6 Million NIH Grant to Study Mental Rehearsal that Improves Motor Skills in Stroke Patients

Drake Center is the research site for a five-year, $3.6 million grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH) that will enable University of Cincinnati (UC) researchers to explore how neuroplasticity, the mental rehearsal of physical activities which causes the brain to rewire itself, can improve motor skills in stroke patients.

Cincinnati, OH (Vocus) October 30, 2009 -- Drake Center is the research site for a five-year, $3.6 million grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH) that will enable University of Cincinnati (UC) researchers to explore how neuroplasticity, the mental rehearsal of physical activities which causes the brain to rewire itself, can improve motor skills in stroke patients.

"This is the culmination of a decade of work by our team in this area and will help many people," says Stephen Page, PhD, director of Drake's neuromotor recovery and rehabilitation laboratory and a University of Cincinnati associate professor of rehabilitation sciences, physical medicine and rehabilitation, neurosciences, and neurology. Page is the principal investigator for the study.

According to Page, the study will be held in conjunction with the Cleveland Clinic, with the Drake Center site taking the lead. A total of 100 stroke patients will be recruited to participate in the groundbreaking research, with 50 patients participating over a five-year period at each of the two locations. The funding period runs from Sept. 1, 2009, to Aug. 31, 2014.

Page's previous research with stroke patients at Drake Center has shown that mental practice, or thinking about performing physical movements, activates the same muscles and brain regions as actual practice of the same task. His most recent research, published in the May issue of Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, showed that repeated use of mental practice causes the brain to rewire itself, called neuroplasticity. This phenomenon seems to be a key event that usually coincides with the recovery of movements. The mental practice can be done at home, Page says, under the guidance of audio and visual tapes.

Page says, "Patients who engage in physical and mental rehearsal as part of their rehabilitation exhibit markedly better outcomes and seem to re-integrate back into their communities more quickly and proficiently than folks who simply go to therapy and then go home. And the best part is that mental practice has a 50-year track record in the cognitive psychology and exercise literature, is non-invasive, and is easy for patients to use."

Page adds, "Because of these factors, there has been tremendous interest in this line of research. Although we were the first to apply mental practice to stroke rehabilitation, this work has led clinicians around the world to apply this technique to other neurological conditions, such as spinal cord injury and Parkinson's disease."

In fact, last year, Page's research team also received an NIH grant to study the technique's effectiveness to restore walking in patients with spinal cord injury.

The Stroke Recovery Center at Drake Center includes a full continuum of inpatient and outpatient interdisciplinary stroke recovery care and research. Many therapies in use at Drake's Stroke Recovery Center were developed at the Neuromotor Recovery and Rehabilitation Lab, under the direction of Page.

This new five-year study on neuroplasticity is open to participants who are more than one year post-stroke. Prospective participants should call (513) 558-2754 for more information.

Drake Center is a leading provider of specialized medical and rehabilitative care in Cincinnati, Ohio, offering a complete range of inpatient and outpatient care. Services include long-term acute care (medically complex care and rehabilitation), skilled nursing, assisted living and various outpatient and wellness services. For more information, visit or call 513-418-2500.

Mary Beth Puryear

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