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Working With Robots May Help After a Stroke
Date:2/18/2009

People who lost use of a hand recaptured movement, study finds,,

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Robotic therapy might help stroke victims regain some of their impaired physical abilities, even if it's been years since the debilitating event.

People with partial paralysis on the right side after a stroke were better able to use their hands to pick up, hold and move objects after they participated in robot-assisted practice grabbing and releasing objects, according to research scheduled to be presented this week at the International Stroke Conference in San Diego.

All 15 participants in the study showed some improvement after the robotic treatment, but those who had less physical impairment at the start of the therapy improved the most. The participants all had had a stroke four months to 10 years before the treatment.

"The status of a patient's motor system at the beginning of therapy is very much related to how treatment will affect them," study senior author Dr. Steven C. Cramer, director of the Stroke Center at the University of California, Irvine, said in a news release issued by the American Stroke Association, which is sponsoring the conference.

The treatment involved motor therapy, in which the participants performed the computer-aided grasping and releasing at their own pace, or a more complex treatment, called pre-motor therapy, in which a timed signal cued the person to either grab, let go or rest. In both treatments, the computer helped people complete the grab or release movement only if they could not finish it themselves.

"Sensory function feeds into motor function," said Cramer, who is also an associate professor of neurology, anatomy and neurobiology at the university. "We completed the movement in these instances so the brain could experience the signals of a completed correct movement."

People with milder physical impairment showed more gains from the pre-m
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