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Physical therapists test mechanical arm to help patients recover from stroke, traumatic brain injury
Date:1/27/2009

floor townhome. "I go to the grocery store. I cook and clean. I drive myself back and forth to class and from here to there."

While she has remastered her gross motor skills, Ms. White is using the Armeo to fine tune the function of her right arm.

"I saw it and thought this is really cool, like a video game," said the college senior, who finds gripping objects most difficult. "I like that it gives you functional tasks versus just doing the movement. It gives you a goal and that's really helpful for me. It's more entertaining than regular therapy."

Armeo's weight support system allows an individual to master a wide range of movements and complete a highly repetitive number of tasks, even with limited function in the affected arm.

"It doesn't control your muscle. It takes the weight off your arm," Dr. Smith said. "You can take gravity away, so the individual can generate force in an easier environment."

Assigned tasks are based on using different muscles, and include virtual exercises such as cleaning a stove, washing a window, catching fish and capturing raindrops in a mug. The exercises also help stroke patients plan perceptually what steps they need to take. The counter-gravitational support can then be reduced over time so the individual bears more and more weight independently. A computer then records speed and frequency of repetitions to track progress.

Arm functions are more diverse and complex than walking, but both are based on a similar therapeutic strategy called neural plasticity, said Dr. Smith, a board certified clinical specialist in neurologic physical therapy. Neural plasticity encourages the brain to reorganize itself by building new synapses and using otherwise suppressed neural networks to compensate for damaged or injured ones. To do so, the brain needs specific and meaningful tasks to perform over and over, so the increased repetitions available through the aid of robotics are expected to be b
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Contact: Russell Rian
russell.rian@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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