University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine
Summer 2005

Rehabilitation for Stroke Victims

Innovative treatment helps foster movement in arms and hands

Stroke victims suffering from paralysis are regaining movement in their arms and hands thanks to an innovative treatment developed at U of T and the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.

Researchers created an advanced neuroprosthesis that stimulates muscles with electrical pulses, mimicking the intricate movements along the hand and arm. While the neuroprosthesis is being used, the patient concentrates on the movement itself, which helps improve the voluntary reaching and grasping function that was impaired due to stroke. “Most therapies do not actively encourage the patient to think about what they’re doing, so there is no connection to the brain to do it,” says Professor Milos Popovic of U of T’s Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering and the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, and lead author of the study outlined in Neuromodulation.

Popovic and his colleagues performed a clinical trial on stroke patients who had lost hand and arm movement. The control group received standard physiotherapy and occupational therapy, while the treatment group used the neuroprosthesis in addition to the standard therapy. “In the treatment group, we showed that after 16 weeks, we can restore some of their reaching and grasping functions,” says Popovic.

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