Robot Technology Helps Get Stroke Survivors Moving

L.A. Area stroke patients, their families, caregivers & media invited to see groundbreaking robotic stroke therapy using a 'movement assisting' arm robot for stroke survivors during media availability.

CULVER CITY, Calif., Oct 27, 2011--'World Stroke Day' observed Saturday, October 29th

As part of this year's observation of 'World Stroke Day' Saturday, October 29th, Able Place Physical Therapy, a respected Westside Los Angles physical therapy provider based in Culver City will host a media availability throughout the day on Friday October 28th to raise awareness of advances in stroke treatment, offering the possibility of recovering function even years after a stroke event. As part of its media availability, Able Place physical therapists and patients will demonstrate the groundbreaking 'movement assisting" arm robot created by Myomo, a new generation medical device company that has combined innovative robotics technology with leading rehabilitation expertise to revolutionize stroke therapy.

"Underscoring the gravity of this issue, strokes afflict over 15 million people worldwide each year. Of those 15 million, almost six million die and a further five million are left permanently disabled," said Rose Ann Weinstein, a licensed physical therapist and founder of Able Place Physical Therapy. "However, with diligent medical care and appropriate physical therapy--often coupled with the use of new robotic therapy devices--many stroke survivors today can look forward to more promising results in their own stroke recovery. The Myomo 'movement assisting arm robot' device that we will be demonstrating in conjunction with World Stroke Day provides direct feedback to the user, reinforcing successful movement strategies. That reinforcement is key to improving motor function in an affected upper extremity in a stroke survivor. "What I found most intriguing when I first saw the Myomo in action was that it senses the patients' intent to move and then augments that movement as opposed to having an outside stimulus cause the muscle to contract."

The Myomo System (short for 'My Own Motion') is initially intended for stroke patients who suffer from severe muscle weakness or loss of voluntary movement of their arm on one side of the body (hemiparesis); and is clinically proven effective from two days to 21 years post stroke. Myomo's technology was originally developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in collaboration with medical experts affiliated with Harvard Medical School.

How Myomo's Brace Works

Patented EMG (electromyography) control software continuously monitors and senses, but does not stimulate, the affected muscles. The patient self initiates and achieves natural movement patterns by their own muscular signals that indicate intention to move. The system senses even a very weak EMG muscle signal and then processes data to a motor on the device that enables desired motion. This processing occurs so quickly that it is not apparent to the patient. Importantly, EMG-driven robotics requires that patients are actively engaged throughout the therapy session; if they stop, the device stops. No electrical stimulation or invasive procedures are employed.

The Myomo mPower 1000 Neurorobotic System is FDA approved for home or clinical use.

"When there is damage to a part of the brain that controls the movement of an arm, hand, leg, or foot, it may not be possible for that portion to be repaired; however, it is possible for an undamaged area to take over the job of the damaged area," added Able Place's Weinstein. "The latest research in stroke recovery reaffirms that repeated movement with an affected limb is the key to regaining its use. The difficultly is that there may be so little movement at the beginning that it is easy for an individual to become frustrated and discouraged and give up."

That is where robotic therapy such as Myomo's 'movement assisting brace' comes in. Neuro-scientists and engineers have developed devices that detect slight movement, and then increase the movement by providing motorized assistance. The robotic assistance allows a person to perform movements over and over again, sending signals to the brain encouraging it to reprogram or remodel itself, a phenomenon neuro-scientists call "neural plasticity".

The development of robotic devices is proving very promising for stroke recovery, but up until recently, they have only been available for clinical use due to their massive size and expense ( ).

Now a lightweight, wearable, user-friendly, robotic training device is available to assist wearers in training and practice by augmenting their own motion. It's called Myomo (short for "My Own Motion") ( ).

Myomo robotic therapy is now available at Able Place Physical Therapy, the very first physical therapy clinic in Los Angeles to offer it. Myomo can be used at home as well as in the clinic, significantly increasing practice time. The more a user can practice on their own, the more successful they will be with any treatment for stroke ( ).

The Myomo fits like a sleeve on a person's affected arm. The sleeve has sensors that sit on the skin's surface and detect even a very faint muscle signal. When a muscle fires, indicating intention to move, the Myomo provides motorized assistance. The device can be worn as a functional aid, used during exercise to maintain gains or applied as a rehabilitation device that re-teaches arm movement to the brain.

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