Stroke patients use brain-computer interface to move hands

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Using a brain-computer interface and exoskeleton device, stoke patients gained the ability to open and close a previously paralyzed hand. The findings, published in Stroke, hope to aid paralyzed stroke patients to regain some aspects of life previously lost to them.

Lead by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the study evaluated patients who had been paralyzed after a stroke in their ability to use a device by mentally controlling its movements through a brain-computer interface.

The device, known as Ipsihand, includes a cap with electrodes to detect brain signals that are then amplified by a computer. The movable brace around the patient arm is able to detect the amplified signals to open or close the hand. To test the device, researchers enrolled 10 patients who were moderately or severely impaired. Participants were given standard motor skills evaluations at baseline and in two-week increments to test their ability to grasp, grip and pinch the hand. They were encouraged to use the device at least five times a week for 10 minutes to two hours a day to train themselves.

After 12 weeks, participants were able to increase their skill in controlling the device by 6.2 points on the Action Research Arm Test, a 57-point scale.

"We have shown that a brain-computer interface using the uninjured hemisphere can achieve meaningful recovery in chronic stroke patients," said Eric Leuthardt, MD, the study's co-senior author. "An increase of six points represents a meaningful improvement in quality of life. For some people, this represents the difference between being unable to put on their pants by themselves and being able to do so."