Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: SN logo

 

Technology Evolves to Enhance Stroke Recovery

By David Wasielewski

 

Science and technology continue to develop innovative tools for stroke recovery. These advances arise as neurologists come to more fully understand the brain’s extraordinary ability to recover from the damage that stroke brings. Understanding how the brain recovers allows medical practitioners and bioengineers to focus on ways in which technology can help the brain mending process.

 

For example, we now understand that the brain’s operation is driven by electricity and that electric impulses are the force that helps the brain learn and rewire itself. The brain continues to learn and change throughout our lives. This concept is the basis of neuroplasticity. The concept of neuroplasticity radically changed the way the medical community views stroke recovery. The adult brain is not static as once believed but is very dynamic as it learns and grows during the whole lifespan.

 

Understanding electricity in the brain has guided stroke treatment towards ways in which this brain electricity can be enhanced to better assist in stroke recovery. Supplementing the brain’s natural ability to generate electricity and ‘learn’ can also enhance recovery from injuries like stroke. Many devices have been developed that focus electric impulses directly on the brain. These range from brain focused devices to those focused on the nerves and muscles that no longer fully function in the survivor.

 

Survivors might wear simple caps with electrodes that send micro-pulses across the skull and cortex while the survivor undergoes physical therapy. The theory is that enhanced electricity will help speed the development of new neural connections to replace damaged ones. Other devices work directly with the muscles that the brain can no longer fully control. Some of these devices are able to sense the slightest residual impulses that the brain is sending to the muscles and then use motors to assist with a joint’s movement.

 

Often, when the brain is no longer able to produce any movement in a limb some residual electric impulses still exist in the muscle and along the damaged neural pathway. The assistive devices detect these very weak impulses and strengthen them to enable full movement of the limb. Allowing the body and brain to recognize that residual impulses can, in fact, activate muscles helps the brain relearn, repair and strengthen these damaged pathways.

 

Unfortunately, for therapies like these to be judges as effective often requires that the patient and therapist feel and observe some sort of movement. Therapists can only tell if the patient is successfully trying to move when actual movement is observed. One quote from Jill Bolte-Taylor comes to mind. “Just because you can’t see me moving doesn’t mean I’m not trying”. This expresses the frustration the patient can feel as they try to move without observable results.

 

One striking new device is able to measure whether a patient is trying by monitoring even the slightest electric micro-pulses in the body. This device allows the patient and the therapist to actually see and measure if the patient is indeed ‘trying’. A monitor allows the patient to see the impulses being sent from the brain as well as the impulse being received by the muscle being retrained. This allows those with very limited or no movement in a joint to still see and work with the residual electrical activity in the brain and muscles.

 

Synergistic Physio-Neuro Platform (SynPhNe), works by giving real-time feedback to the patients on what is happening in their mind and in their muscles. Patients using SynPhNe know where their problems lie and can slowly work towards overcoming each problem, instead of feeling frustrated and going through a painful, expensive and prolonged trial-and-error process when their improvements are not visible. Additional info is available at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130411075457.htm

 

This device can measure the trying and build on the previously undetectable effort in order to progress recovery. The researchers believe that it will help survivors overcome the ‘plateau’ that often characterizes stroke recovery. Therapists will be able to identify progress that had previously been invisible and continue to build on this patient progress.

 

By building on improved knowledge of the brain, developing devices to assist in therapy, researchers are better able to assist in therapeutic recovery from stroke. They are able not only to measure real observable movement but can now even see a patient’s previously invisible ‘efforts’ involved in recovery.

 


Note: The Stroke Network does not endorse this device. The information is given for your own education. Please let us know if you have used this device and how it worked for you.

 

 

Copyright@January 2014

The Stroke Network, Inc.

P.O. Box 492 Abingdon, Maryland 21009

All rights reserved.