Once you've survived a stroke, the next is to recover from paralysis. Like many patients, 65-year-old Donald Millbury was given ten months of rehabilitation with a therapist. And like many patients, it was not enough. "I had very little mobility in my left arm," said Millbury.
Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology thought a newly developed robotic arm could help. "It adds hope to those people who think that they've done all that they can," said professor Neville Hogan of MIT. The technology is sophisticated. The concept, remarkably simple. Retraining the brain to control the muscles. "When the target changes color, you , the patient, are supposed to move the little yellow dot to coincide with the red one," said Hogan. And if you don't get to that dot, the robot will propel you there. And if you do something in the wrong direction, it sort of nudges you back in the direction you should be going. "So repetitive that in a one on one interaction with a therapist it would yield 700 movements of person's arm," said occupational therapist Mark Ferraro.
Initial studies show that adding the robot to a rehabilitation program can double the mobility in a patient's arm. "I have a lot use of it now. I can open bottle caps and carry things in my hand that I couldn't carry before," said patient Karen Levine. Using the robot even eight years after a stroke still helped. "I can actually raise my arm up and stretch my arm out and I was never able to do that before," she said.
by Dee Armstrong