Stroke Rehab: It's never too late

Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the country, but the leading cause of disability among adults.

It was once thought that whatever mobility stroke survivors head after two years, that's all they would ever regain. But researchers have developed new technology, that's proving that fact wrong.

Seven years ago, Todd Daniels couldn't stand on his own; as a result, Todd suffered a stroke.

"My family was told I would always need to be in a nursing home and I would never walk again," says stroke survivor Todd Daniels.

Determination is finally proving the experts wrong. Todd is one of the first to use a new bionic arm, tested at the Ohio State University to help him regain movement.

"The pads pick up the intention, or the desire, for the patient to move, and then the robot detects that and basically amplifies that desire to move," explains Dr. Stephen Page, PhD, an Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

For Todd, the study's been a success.

"When he first started the study, this, the only time he could actually do this motion was involuntarily,” says Heather Tanksley an Occupational Therapy Student at the Ohio State University. “So, now he's doing it voluntarily."

Dr. Stephen Page believes with the repetitive use of the bionic arm, a patient's brain is being rewired.

"Areas that maybe weren't being used or dedicated to a certain movement, like moving the arm can actually be used," says Dr. Page.

And just how much a stroke patient is improving, is for the first time, being measured by the same technology used in your smart phone.

"When we turn this way, or this way, the screen changes, and, so it's sensitive to movement," explains Dr. Page.

Accelerometers, which measure the acceleration and direction of body movements, are placed on each ankle, both arms, and across the chest.

"We are able to determine how well, how fast, how efficiently a stroke survivor is moving," says Dr. Page.

"Just gaining some motion back was just a huge step," says Todd.

Dr. Page believes that stroke patients in recovery, any time after the stroke, can continue to increase their mobility.

He hopes the bionic arm will be able to go home with patients to help them do simple tasks around their homes easier.

REPORT #2029

BACKGROUND: A stroke or "brain attack" occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel breaks, disrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. When either of these things happens, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs. Whenever brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain are lost. These abilities include speech, movement, and memory. (Source:

SMART PHONE TECHNOLOGY: People love their smartphones, but many of us take for grant the technology that is packed into our phones and tablets. Researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are inspired by it. They are the first to test the innovative approach that combines blue tooth technology with a computer program that charts the movement of a patient's arms and legs during rehabilitation. "These moving body parts are in a constant state of motion, but with this technology we can figure out how they are all working together. This gives us the ability to objectively, precisely, figure out at the bedside or in a rehab facility, how well someone is improving," Stephen Page, PhD, FAHA, an occupational therapist at The Ohio State University Medical Center, was quoted as saying. Six sensors are placed on the participants' arms, legs, and chest. As the person walks the sensors relate information to each other and back to a computer that charts how and where the person is moving.

Researchers are using this new technology to evaluate progress in a study that is combining electrical muscle stimulation, which has been used to improve muscle function for decades, with active motion on a recumbent bicycle. The goal of the study is to determine whether the combination of active motion and electrical stimulation provides added benefit for the patient through neuroplasticity, or retraining the brain. The first part of the study will examine ten people. Over the course of ten weeks, half of the participants will get the electrical stimulation on their legs while biking, and the other half will get a placebo. (Source:

"BIONIC ARM": Dr. Stephen Page says that close to 80 percent of stroke survivors have difficulties with arm movement. Most therapists have assumed for many years that there was only a small window of opportunity to rehabilitate arms that were damaged by a stroke. They would focus on the arms in the early stages of rehab. Dr. Page launched a new study to help change this notion. The study uses a hi-tech elbow brace known as "bionic arm." "All of our muscles have what's called EMG or electromyography. It is essentially a signal that our muscle sends out when it's moving, or attempting to move," he said. "When the patients attempt to move, even if it's slow, or not even visible, this device will magnify those attempts to move and the robot inside will kick in and help them to move the rest of the way," Dr. Page was quoted as saying. Researchers believe that the brain can actually be retrained to move the arm on its own, regardless of how long ago a patient had a stroke. They think the repetitive use of the "bionic arm" will rewire the patients' brains. (Source:

For More Information, Contact:

Steve Page, PhD, OTR/L, FAHA
Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

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