Boosting robot-assisted rehabilitation of stroke hemiparesis by individualized selection of upper limb movements: a pilot study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

External organisations

  • BIRMINGHAM COMMUNITY HEALTHCARE NHS TRUST

Abstract

Background: Intensive robot-assisted training of the upper limb after stroke can reduce motor impairment, even at the chronic stage. However, the effectiveness of practice for recovery depends on the selection of the practised movements. We hypothesized that rehabilitation can be optimized by selecting the movements to be practiced based on the trainee’s performance profile.

Methods: We present a novel principle (‘steepest gradients’) for performance-based selection of movements. The principle is based on mapping motor performance across a workspace and then selecting movements located at regions of the steepest transition between better and worse performance.

To assess the benefit of this principle we compared the effect of 15 sessions of robot-assisted reaching training on upper-limb motor impairment, between two groups of people who have moderate-to-severe chronic upper-limb hemiparesis due to stroke. The test group (N = 7) received steepest gradients-based training, iteratively selected according to the steepest gradients principle with weekly remapping, whereas the control group (N = 9) received a standard “centre-out” reaching training. Training intensity was identical.

Results: Both groups showed improvement in Fugl-Meyer upper-extremity scores (the primary outcome measure). Moreover, the test group showed significantly greater improvement (twofold) compared to control. The score remained elevated, on average, for at least 4 weeks although the additional benefit of the steepest-gradients -based training diminished relative to control.

Conclusions: This study provides a proof of concept for the superior benefit of performance-based selection of practiced movements in reducing upper-limb motor impairment due to stroke. This added benefit was most evident in the short term, suggesting that performance-based steepest-gradients training may be effective in increasing the rate of initial phase of practice-based recovery; we discuss how long-term retention may also be improved.

Trial registration: ISRCTN, ISRCTN65226825, registered 12 June 2018 - Retrospectively registered.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Article number42
Number of pages14
JournalJ Neuroeng Rehabil
Volume16
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2019

Keywords

  • Reaching task, Rehabilitation, Robot-assisted therapy, Stroke, Upper limb movements

ASJC Scopus subject areas