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 Home Stroke Rehabilitation ? Within Five Years?

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Date posted: 13/02/2009

The University of Southampton, in the UK, is developing electrical stimulation technology, designed to help stroke patients relearn movement, by duplicating the natural, original nerve impulses. The technology is a direct offshoot of work to decode the electrical signals of the peripheral nervous system.

Dr Chris Freeman from the ECS Electrical Power Engineering group, one of the researchers on the project, believes that progress is now swift enough, that portable, affordable stroke rehabilitation equipment, which patients can use in their own homes, could be developed within five years.

The project certainly has no shortage of new funding, inspired by increasing tangible results.

Working with stroke patients, the team applied electrical stimulation to contract appropriate muscles through electrodes attached to the skin which they found could be controlled to enable the patients to successfully perform tasks. They found that those trialled could track a moving target over a two-dimensional plane by moving their arm using a custom-made robotic workstation. The ultimate aim was that through repetition, voluntary movement would improve, thus gradually reducing the need for artificial stimulation.

?As far as we know, up to now, nobody has tried using a technique called iterative learning control, to help people who have had a stroke to move again,? said Dr Freeman. ?This is a great example of how state of the art control theory, normally used for industrial robots, can be applied to challenges in rehabilitation.?

Now, the researchers are taking this research a stage further and plan over the two-year period of the EPSRC grant to expand these technologies to enable the stimulation of more muscles in the arm and hand and more flexible, functional tasks to be performed.

See the full Story via external site: www.ecs.soton.ac.uk

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