Robot helps stroke victims use their arms

March 17, 2010 at 6:02 PM
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GENOA, Italy, March 17 (UPI) -- Italian scientists say they have developed a robot that could become a teacher to help paralyzed stroke patients learn to use their arms again.

Researcher Elena Vergaro at the University of Genoa worked with scientists at the Italian Institute of Technology to develop the robotic arm for a pilot trial involving 10 patients.

The researcher's robot assists patients as they attempt to guide its "hand" in a figure-of-eight motion above a desk, with the robot pulling in the correct direction and resisting incorrect movements to a minutely controlled degree. The scientists said the interactive assistance allows for alternating levels of help.

"Our preliminary results from this small group of patients suggest that the scheme is robust and promotes a statistically significant improvement in performance," Vergaro said. "Future large-scale controlled clinical trials should confirm that robot-assisted physiotherapy can allow functional achievements in activities of daily life."

She said the robot, by demonstrating correct arm movements, can help a patient's motor system learn to replicate the desired trajectory by experience.

The study is reported in the Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation.

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