Background: There is conflict regarding the benefits of greater amounts of intensive upper limb rehabilitation in the early period post-stroke. This study was conducted to test the feasibility of providing intensive therapy during the early period post-stroke and to develop a randomized control trial that is currently in process. Specifically, the study investigated whether an additional 8 h of specialized, intensive (200-300 separate hand or arm movements per hour) virtual reality (VR)/robotic based upper limb training introduced within 1-month post-stroke resulted in greater improvement in impairment and behavior, and distinct changes in cortical reorganization measured via Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), compared to that of a control group. Methods: Seven subjects received 8-1 h sessions of upper limb VR/robotic training in addition to their inpatient therapy (PT, OT, ST). Six subjects only received their inpatient therapy. All were tested on measures of impairment [Upper Extremity Fugl-Meyer Assessment (UEFMA), Wrist AROM, Maximum Pinch Force], behavior [Wolf Motor Function Test (WMFT)], and also received TMS mapping until 6 months post training. ANOVAs were conducted to measure differences between groups across time for all outcome measures. Associations between changes in ipsilesional cortical maps during the early period of enhanced neuroplasticity and long-term changes in upper limb impairment and behavior measures were evaluated. Results: The VR/robotic group made significantly greater improvements on UEFMA and Wrist AROM scores compared to the usual care group. There was also less variability in the association between changes in the First Dorsal Interosseus (FDI) muscle map area and WMFT and Maximum Force change scores for the VR/robotic group. Conclusions: An additional 8 h of intensive VR/robotic based upper limb training initiated within the first month post-stroke may promote greater gains in impairment compared to usual care alone. Importantly, the data presented demonstrated the feasibility of conducting this intervention and multiple outcome measures (impairment, behavioral, neurophysiological) in the early period post-stroke.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Health Informatics
- Early sub-acute
- Robotic therapy
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation
- Upper limb
- Virtual reality