Recovering from stoke takes time, sometimes even years. Thanks to science and tech, there’s a new device called the Ipsihand that can help stroke survivors regain the use of their hands.
Ipsihand is developed by scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, results of the trial have been published in the journal Stroke, explaining how the Ipsihand helps reroute control of the hand to an undamaged part of the brain.
The process involves a glove or brace that fits over the hand, a cap fitted with electrodes that detect the electrical signals of brain activity and a PC that amplifies those signals.
We have shown that a brain-computer interface using the uninjured hemisphere can achieve meaningful recovery in chronic stroke patients.
The human hands are controlled by the opposite side of the brain, in essence, when the right hand is moved, the left hemisphere of the brain comes alive with activity. In situations where the left hemisphere is damaged, individuals will find it hard controlling the right hand.
For healthy individuals, seconds before the left hemisphere of the brain becomes active to move the right arm, the right hemisphere shoots off electrical signals, this indicates the intent to move. Scientists harnessed these intention signals with the Ipsihand system.
To make new connections, Ipsihand’s cap detects the intention signals to open or close the hand, after which the computer amplifies them. The brace then opens or closes with the hand inside, bending the fingers and thumb to meet.
According to Leuthardt, “The idea is that if you can couple those motor signals that are associated with moving the same-sided limb with the actual movements of the hand, new connections will be made in your brain that allow the uninjured areas of your brain to take over control of the paralyzed hand”
10 patients out of 13 recruited finished the program, they used the Ipsihand for 10 minutes to two hours a day, five days a week for 12 weeks. Surprisingly after 12 weeks, the patients had improved an average of 6.2 points on a 57-point scale evaluating motor skills. According to Leuthardt, this increase represents a “meaningful improvement” in quality of life.
As the technology to pick up brain signals gets better, I’m sure the device will be even more effective at helping stroke patients recover some function – Co-senior author Thy Huskey.
From the tests, the scientists discovered that patients improved based on how well the system read the signals from their brains. When researchers improve Ipsihand capability to pick up signals, it will be better at helping survivors move their hands again.
A stroke is when poor blood flow to the brain results in cell death. There are two main types of stroke: ischemic, due to lack of blood flow, and hemorrhagic, due to bleeding. They result in part of the brain not functioning properly. Signs and symptoms of a stroke may include an inability to move or feel on one side of the body, problems understanding or speaking, feeling like the world is spinning, or loss of vision to one side. Signs and symptoms often appear soon after the stroke has occurred. If symptoms last less than one or two hours it is known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mini-stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke may also be associated with a severe headache. The symptoms of a stroke can be permanent. Long-term complications may include pneumonia or loss of bladder control.
The main risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure. Other risk factors include tobacco smoking, obesity, high blood cholesterol, diabetes mellitus, previous TIA, and atrial fibrillation.