Medical robotics are the future, and the future is now. (HealthDay News) -- Robotic aids can help stroke patients make significant improvements in their ability to move their limbs, and gain a better outlook on life, new research finds.

The study, by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and published online in the New England Journal of Medicine, offers the strongest evidence yet that stroke sufferers can regain limb movement long after an injury, through "intensive therapy with specially trained personnel and newly created robotic aids," the researchers said.

Those who underwent 12 weeks of therapy using the robotic device reported statistically significant improvements in their quality of life, and greater improvements in their upper-limb function compared with those receiving usual care, the researchers found.

The patients in the robot-assisted therapy group were seated at a table with their stroke-affected arm attached to the device, and were prompted to move a cursor on a screen.

The robot sensed if they had trouble performing the task, and assisted their movements. These assisted body movements helped the stroke-damaged brain learn to compensate for the lost function and begin to "rewire" itself, the study authors explained in a news release from Brown University.
 
"There are about 6.4 million stroke patients in the U.S. with chronic deficits. We have shown with the right therapy, they can see improvements in movement, everyday function and quality of life," Lo added. "This is giving stroke survivors new hope."

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