Washington: In an attempt to give stroke patients a higher quality of life, scientists have built a new rehabilitation device that will allow patients to achieve an additional level of recovery and shorten their rehab period.
Vivek Prabhakaran, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison , along with co-principal investigator Justin Williams and a team, built the new rehabilitation device by pairing a functional electrical stimulation (FES) system, which is currently used to help stroke patients recover limb function, and a brain control interface (BCI), which provides a direct communication pathway between the brain and this peripheral stimulation device.
In an FES system, electrical currents are used to activate nerves in paralyzed extremities.
Using a computer and an electrode cap placed on the head, the new BCI-FES device, called the Closed-Loop Neural Activity-Triggered Stroke Rehabilitation Device, interprets electrical impulses from the brain and transmits the information to the FES.
Dr. Prabhakaran said that FES is a passive technique in that the electrical impulses move the patients' extremities for them.
When a patient using the device is asked to imagine or attempt to move his or her hand, the BCI translates that brain activity to a signal that triggers the FES, Dr. Prabhakaran said.
Dr. Prabhakaran said that their system adds an active component to the rehabilitation by linking brain activity to the peripheral stimulation device, which gives the patients direct control over their movement.
He added that his team hopes that the device not only shortens rehabilitation time for stroke patients, but also that it brings a higher level of recovery than is achievable with the current standard of care.