Device Helps Stroke Sufferers Build Brain
Stroke patients can improve their movement by using a simple mechanical device to ready their brain for daily therapy.
Developed by researchers at The University of Auckland, a mechanical device, small enough to be easily used in the home, primes the brain to be ready for self-directed physical therapy for stroke patients.
When used for three times per day for ten minutes prior to practice with the stroke-affected hand, people saw a marked improvement in their hand movements after one month. Importantly, the device group had beneficial changes in brain function as a result of the priming, which were not seen in the control group, and continued to improve after the month's trial.
Results of the research are published in this month's issue of the journal Brain.
"After a stroke, activity in the movement areas in each side of the brain become unbalanced, with the stroke-affected side being less active," says Dr Cathy Stinear of the Department of Sport and Exercise Science and the lead author of the study. "This usually leads to impaired function in the arm, hand or leg on one side of the body. This device works by activating stroke-affected movement areas of the brain, so they achieve better control of the affected hand.
"Over half of people affected by stroke experience hand and arm disability which persists after rehabilitation and often prevents people from achieving full recovery or returning to work" says Alan Barber, Professor of Clinical Neurology and a co-investigator in the study. "The beauty of this device is that it can be used at home once people have been discharged from supervised rehabilitation programmes." However, Professor Barber cautions that these benefits need to be confirmed in larger studies.
The device will be manufactured by New Zealand company Criterion Group Ltd through an agreement with Auckland UniServices Ltd, the University's commercialisation arm, and is scheduled to be available in 2009.
The research was funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand.