Robotic Arm Therapy

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A weeks-long round of robotic arm rehabilitation might improve speech and language outcomes in chronic stroke patients with aphasia, according to preliminary results of a small-scale study published in Frontiers in Neurology.

The study enrolled 17 stroke patients from a hemiparesis rehabilitation center, is rooted in an initial observation by coauthor Dylan J. Edwards, PhD, PT, During his time at Weill Cornell Medicine, Dr. Edwards noted stroke patients seemed to process speech and language better after a three-month course of robotic arm therapy.

“There is a need for efficient interventions to expedite and enhance recovery,” Edwards et al. said in the journal. “We explored the possibility that treatment in one domain—motor function—may benefit performance in another, untreated domain—communication—in individuals with acquired aphasia and/or apraxia of speech. Synergistic effects of treatment across domains could provide a transformational approach to stroke rehabilitation.”

Edwards and colleagues evaluated patients’ speech and language function both prior to and following the 12-week, three-times-a-week course of therapy using three tests: diadochokinesis, category naming and comprehensive speech-language battery.

Patients scored better on all three tests after three months of robotic arm rehab.

“The positive overall findings should be treated cautiously in the absence of a control group not receiving robotics,” researchers wrote. “This work indicates the importance of considering approaches to stroke rehabilitation across different domains of impairment, and warrants additional exploration of the possibility that robotic arm motor treatment may enhance rehabilitation for speech and language outcomes.”

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