Hand Focused Upper Extremity Rehabilitation in the Subacute Phase Post-stroke Using Interactive Virtual Environments

Alma S. Merians, Gerard G. Fluet, Qinyin Qiu, Mathew Yarossi, Jigna Patel, Ashley J. Mont, Soha Saleh, Karen J. Nolan, A. M. Barrett, Eugene Tunik, Sergei V. Adamovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Introduction: Innovative motor therapies have attempted to reduce upper extremity impairment after stroke but have not made substantial improvement as over 50% of people post-stroke continue to have sensorimotor deficits affecting their self-care and participation in daily activities. Intervention studies have focused on the role of increased dosing, however recent studies have indicated that timing of rehabilitation interventions may be as important as dosing and importantly, that dosing and timing interact in mediating effectiveness. This study is designed to empirically test dosing and timing. Methods and Analysis: In this single-blinded, interventional study, subjects will be stratified on two dimensions, impairment level (Fugl-Meyer Upper Extremity Assessment (FM) and presence or absence of Motor Evoked Potentials (MEPs) as follows; (1) Severe, FM score 10–19, MEP+, (2) Severe, FM score 10–19, MEP–, (3) Moderate, FM score 20–49, MEP+, (4) Moderate, FM score 20–49, MEP–. Subjects not eligible for TMS will be assigned to either group 2 (if severe) or group 3 (if moderate). Stratified block randomization will then be used to achieve a balanced assignment. Early Robotic/VR Therapy (EVR) experimental group will receive in-patient usual care therapy plus an extra 10 h of intensive upper extremity therapy focusing on the hand using robotically facilitated rehabilitation interventions presented in virtual environments and initiated 5–30 days post-stroke. Delayed Robotic/VR Therapy (DVR) experimental group will receive the same intervention but initiated 30–60 days post-stroke. Dose-matched usual care group (DMUC) will receive an extra 10 h of usual care initiated 5–30 days post-stroke. Usual Care Group (UC) will receive the usual amount of physical/occupational therapy. Outcomes: There are clinical, neurophysiological, and kinematic/kinetic measures, plus measures of daily arm use and quality of life. Primary outcome is the Action Research Arm Test (ARAT) measured at 4 months post-stroke. Discussion: Outcome measures will be assessed to determine whether there is an early time period in which rehabilitation will be most effective, and whether there is a difference in the recapture of premorbid patterns of movement vs. the development of an efficient, but compensatory movement strategy. Ethical Considerations: The IRBs of New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rutgers University, Northeastern University, and Kessler Foundation reviewed and approved all study protocols. Study was registered in https://ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT03569059) prior to recruitment. Dissemination will include submission to peer-reviewed journals and professional presentations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number573642
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
StatePublished - Nov 26 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


  • EEG
  • robotics
  • stroke
  • subacute
  • transcranial magnetic stimulation
  • upper limb
  • virtual reality


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