From today's New York Times:
In Latest Robotics, New Hope for Stroke Patients
By AMANDA SCHAFFER
The New York Times
Published: July 10, 2007
Mary O’Regan more or less ignored her left arm for 20 years.
As a sophomore in college, in 1986, she fell off the back of a friend’s dirt bike and hit her head on concrete, later suffering a stroke. After intensive medical and physical therapy, she learned to speak and walk again. She went back to school and then to work. (And, as it happened, two of her brothers ended up marrying two of the nurses who had taken care of her.) Still, much of her left side remained numb, and she did not regain use of her left arm.
Last year, however, Ms. O’Regan, now 40 and living in Westwood, Mass., enrolled in a clinical trial for a new robotic device called the Myomo e100, designed to help stroke patients regain motion in their arms. The device, worn as an arm brace, works by sensing weak electrical activity in patients’ arm muscles and providing just enough assistance that they can complete simple exercises, like lifting boxes or flipping on light switches. By practicing such tasks, patients may begin to relearn how to extend and flex the arm, rebuilding and strengthening neurological pathways in the process.
“The device is designed to help get patients over a functional hump” so they can start moving the weakened arm again, said John McBean, a mechanical engineer who developed the technology with Kailas Narendran, an electrical engineer and computer scientist. (The two began the project in 2002, in a graduate robotics class at M.I.T.)
“And the more they are able to use the arm, the more improvement they begin to see,” Mr. McBean continued. “So it’s a virtuous cycle.”
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