Chronic stroke patients could have a better chance at being rehabilitated thanks to a hand-operated robotic device.
Previously, it was thought patients who survived a stroke had only a window of six months for rehabilitation. However, new research has shown patients who squeezed the robotic device for an hour a day, three days a week experienced increased activity in their cortex, even after the six month window.
The brain activity was measured by a functional MRI, the first time a study used one to track stroke rehabilitation.
"We have shown that the brain has the ability to regain function through rehabilitative exercises following a stroke. These findings should give hope to people who have had strokes, their families and the rehabilitative specialists who treat them," said Dr A Aria Tzika, director of the NMR Surgical Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital.
It was also found the increase in brain activity remained after the stroke patients stopped the rehabilitation exercise for several months.
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and one of the principal causes of severe long-term disability. Approximately 700,000 strokes occur a year in the U.S. with 90 percent of the survivors experiencing motor weakness.