Virtual Reality and Robotics for Neuro-Motor Rehabilitation of Ischemic Stroke Patients
It is well known that patients undergoing a cerebrovascular attack often experience a partial recovery of the motor function of the upper limbs, despite the application of manual motor therapy. Therefore, several research studies have recently focused on improving the rehabilitation process by using robotic devices and virtual reality. Robot-aided therapy may be capable of overcoming some of the limitations of manual therapy, such as the lack of exact repeatability of the movements and the objective measurement of training progresses. On the other hand, embedding the patient in a virtual environment, which might be personalized not only to his spared abilities but also to his interests, could be more motivating and could provide online bio-feedback about his performance, hence reinforcing the effect of the therapy. Although the preliminary results of those studies are encouraging, they have been limited to small groups of chronic patients. In this project, robot-aided rehabilitation in combination with virtual environments will be used on sub-acute and chronic stroke patients for the first time. This allows not only the evaluation of effectiveness of the advanced treatment and comparison to traditional motor therapy, but will also supply information about the retention of benefits over time. In order to explore the temporal evolution of cortical activity in relation to the degree of functional recovery, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) will be conducted before, during and after the new rehabilitation therapy. Combined with Electroencephalography (EEG) and Electromyography (EMG) studies, which will be recorded online during treatment, the collected data will provide a basis for a better understanding of the neurobiological and neurophysiological mechanisms that underlie the changes in brain pattern activation after stroke.
KeywordsVirtual Reality Robotics Rehabilitation Ischemic Stroke
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