Volume 53 Number 6, 2016
Pages 989 — 1006
Abstract — Stroke survivors with severe upper limb (UL) impairment face years of therapy to recover function. Robot-assisted therapy (RT) is increasingly used in the field for goal-oriented rehabilitation as a means to improve UL function. To be used effectively for wrist and hand therapy, the current RT systems require the patient to have a minimal active range of movement in the UL, and those that do not have active voluntary movement cannot use these systems. We have overcome this limitation by harnessing tongue motion to allow patients to control a robot using synchronous tongue and hand movement. This novel RT device combines a commercially available UL exoskeleton, the Hand Mentor, and our custom-designed Tongue Drive System as its controller. We conducted a proof-of-concept study on six nondisabled participants to evaluate the system usability and a case series on three participants with movement limitations from poststroke hemiparesis. Data from two stroke survivors indicate that for patients with chronic, moderate UL impairment following stroke, a 15-session training regimen resulted in modest decreases in impairment, with functional improvement and improved quality of life. The improvement met the standard of minimal clinically important difference for activities of daily living, mobility, and strength assessments.
Key words: assistive technology, exoskeleton, Hand Mentor, motor cortex, neuroplasticity, robot-assisted therapy, robotic rehabilitation, stroke, Tongue Drive System, upper-limb functional recovery.
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Last Reviewed or Updated Tuesday, February 21, 2017 12:56 PM