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Mechanical device could aid stroke recovery

July 30, 2014
by Richard R. Rogoski
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Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a mechanical device that, along with exercise therapy, could someday help stroke survivors regain the use of their hands.

While the repetitive facilitation exercise (RFE) is commonly used in rehabilitating those who have lost the ability to move their hands due to a stroke, there are some who do not have a strong enough neural signal that travels from the brain to the wrist. In these cases, the wrist has to be physically flexed at the same time the resident is thinking about moving his hand in order to create a neural signal.

But this new MRI-compatible hemiparesis rehab device which uses a pneumatic actuator tendon hammer to mimic the specific brain signal, creating a stretch reflex at exactly the same time the brain would.

In a press release, Minoru Shinohara, an associate professor in the School of Applied Physiology and director of the Human Neuromuscular Physiology Lab, said, "It’s kind of like trying to fill a bucket with water. Stroke individuals can only mentally fill it halfway. The machine pours in the rest to make it full."

To date, researchers have only used healthy individuals to test the new device, but ongoing studies will involve those who have experienced a stroke.