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MIT brace aids stroke recovery

The study showed that the severely impaired patients' arm function improved, on average, 23 percent after using the brace, and the arm muscle tightness typical of stroke victims was significantly reduced.

Cost-effective rehabilitation

In the US, there are 5.7 million stroke survivors and 700,000 new cases per year. Stroke is the single leading cause of disability in the US. Many of the medical devices aimed at treating patients afflicted with neurological disorders have not fundamentally changed in decades, or require costly, high-risk brain implants.

The robotic therapy device was one of the first recipients of a grant from MIT's Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation. The center funds novel early-stage research and connects MIT's innovators with the resources needed to increase their commercial viability. The robotic therapy device received Deshpande grants in 2002 and 2003.

"We saw this as a novel technology with the potential to have a significant impact on the quality of life for people," said Charles Cooney, faculty director of the Deshpande Center and a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. "This study proves we were right."

The wearable, portable, lightweight robotic brace slides onto the arm. By sensing the patient's electrical muscle activity through electromyography (EMG)--which detects muscle cells' electrical activity when they contract--and sending that data to a motor, it allows stroke patients to control their affected limbs.

When used under the supervision of an occupational or physical therapist, the device can be used to help patients progress from basic motor training, such as lifting boxes or reaching for a light switch, to more complex tasks such as carrying a laundry basket or flipping a light on and off while holding an object with the unaffected limb.

According to the study researchers-Dr. Joel Stein, Kathryn Krebs and Richard Hughes of Harvar
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Contact: Elizabeth Thomson
thomson@mit.edu
617-258-5402
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
22-Mar-2007


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