Local News

New Robot Helping Stroke Victims To Regain Mobility

Posted February 18, 2002

— For many people, the toughest part of having a stroke is dealing with what they may have lost. A new robot may be the key to helping them regain some of their independence.

Seven years ago, a stroke paralyzed Karen Levine's left arm.

"I had no use at all of my left arm. The doctors said we give you six months and if you don't see any use in your arm in six months, you're not going to get any use," she said.

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology are challenging the long-held belief that most recovery occurs during the first six months of stroke rehabilitation. They are getting some help from MIT Manus, a two-and-a-half-foot-tall robot.

"The focus of the engineers at MIT was really to look at people with stroke, primarily to see how could repetitive movement actually help them to restore movement after stroke," mechanical engineer Susan Fasoli said.

The robot stands on a table and has an extendable arm, which is secured to the patient's affected arm. The robot then moves the arm through a series of exercises. The exercises can stimulate changes in the brain.

"Certain areas of the brain can take over for those damaged areas, and those connections then can become more restored between the brain and the muscles that actually affect movement," Fasoli said.

Research shows that some patients regain movement and control up to five years after a stroke. Levine said while she cannot do everything she wants with her left arm, she has regained some of what she lost.

"I can raise my arm where I was never able to raise it and stretch it out," she said.

One of the reasons why experts claim patients seem to respond so well to the robotic therapy is because the robot can provide training that just cannot replicated by human hands.

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