Testing Sensors in Stroke Rehab

A team at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is applying two well-tested applications in new ways in an attempt to improve mobility in people who have suffered a stroke.  Researchers specializing in rehabilitation use smart phone technology to evaluate the progress of stroke survivors who are learning to walk again.

“In our study, we’re measuring how well people walked before and how they walk after intervention with a new system of wireless sensors that use the same technology found in cell phones and tablets,” said Stephen Page PhD, Associate professor of Occupation Therapy at Ohio State’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. “This is the first time this approach has been used.”The team is using wireless sensors with tiny accelerometers to measure the force of acceleration used in smart phones and tablets to sense movement. Six sensors are placed on the study participant’s arms, legs, and chest. As the person walks, or performs other functional activities, the sensor relates information to each other and then backs up the information to a computer that charts how and where the person is moving.

Page and his team are using this technology to evaluate progress in a study testing a new type of rehabilitation intervention for stroke survivors. For the first time, the team is combining electrical muscle stimulation which has been used to improve muscle function for decades with active stepping motion on a recumbent bicycle. The objective for the study is to determine whether the combination of active motion and electrical stimulation provides added benefit for the patient through neuroplasticity or retraining the brain.

“The stepping motion on a recumbent bike uses similar parts of the brain as when a person is actually walking,” said Page. “We are trying to recruit new areas of the brain around the stroke-damaged areas which is called neuroplasticity and get those areas to control walking again.”

The first part of the study will examine ten people who have experienced a stroke within a year to 18 months prior to study enrollment and have limited ability to walk. Over the course of ten weeks, half of the study participants will receive electrical stimulation on their legs while biking and the other half will receive placebo treatment also while biking.

Page reports that this study challenges the notion among many physicians and rehabilitation experts that stroke survivors reach a recovery plateau within a year after their stroke. “We have shown in more than a decade of studies that this belief is not true, and expect to show that with this intervention, stroke survivors can continue to get better see meaningful gains years after their stroke,” said Page

For more information, email Stephen.Page@osumc.edu.

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