Our Chief Innovation officer, Ashley, successfully defended her dissertation for her project entitled “Development and Evaluation of a Hand Exoskeleton for Neurorehabilitation Post Stroke”. Her project included the development of a hand exoskeleton that assists with opening and closing the hand for individuals with stroke. She also evaluated the feasibility of using this device with NeuroTechR3’s R3THA system.
Stroke is one of the leading causes of disability due to its chronic effects. Many individuals with stroke suffer the loss of motor function in their paretic upper extremity, and longitudinal studies show that 30 – 66% of individuals with hemiplegia fail to regain arm function six months post stroke. After a stroke, the brain undergoes neuroplasticity which will promote recovery of function. Investigators are trying to develop rehabilitation interventions that optimize this process. One method that has been used to promote neuroplasticity is motor priming. Priming activates the brain prior to a therapy session to enhance the effects of the training session.
Ashley’s developed a low-cost, lightweight, and easy-to-use robotic exoskeleton that assists with flexion and extension of the fingers or opening and closing of the hand. For individuals with stroke, extending the fingers to open the hand is often a challenging task. Evaluations demonstrate that the design of the exoskeleton fits comfortably on the hand and it was able to be used for motor priming for individuals with stroke.
This device was also used for a feasibility study where training with the device was paired with exergames with the research version of R3THA. This study was well tolerated and trends for improvement were seen. Future work will include longitudinal studies with the device to determine efficacy.