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Robotic Device Could Help Stroke Patients
Date:12/4/2008

Through exercise, it seems to boost activity in a key region of the brain

THURSDAY, Dec. 4 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. researchers say they've developed a hand-exercising robotic device that appears to help stroke victims recover motor skills, even more than six months after a stroke.

Brain scans suggested that the device, which patients squeeze with their stroke-afflicted hands, boosted activity in the part of the brain that handles use of the hands.

"There's still hope in these patients with chronic stroke who have had a stroke a long time ago. If they do the right type of exercises, they can get better," said A. Aria Tzika, director of the NMR Surgical Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital and lead author of a study released Wednesday at the Radiological Society of North America annual meeting, in Chicago.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States, trailing only heart disease and cancer, and a leading cause of severe long-term disability. An estimated 700,000 cases of stroke are diagnosed in the country each year.

In many cases, strokes cause brain damage that limits the movement of patients. In the new study, Tzika and her colleagues sought to determine whether their device could help stroke patients at least six months after their brain attacks. Conventional wisdom has held that there was only a small three- to six-month window following a stroke when rehabilitation could help a patient.

The stroke patients in the new study squeezed the device, which can be set to provide different levels of resistance. The researchers tested the device on five patients who had lost motor control in their right hands after strokes.

Brain scans using fMRI technology found that the device seemed to boost activity in the cortex, the region of the brain that corresponds with hand use, even after patients stopped using the tool.

But, Tzika said the study didn't
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