The objective of this study was the evaluation of the clinical and neurophysiological effects of intensive robot-assisted hand therapy compared to intensive occupational therapy in the chronic recovery phase after stroke.
50 patients with a first-ever stroke occurred at least six months before, were enrolled and randomised into two groups. The experimental group was provided with the Amadeo™ hand training (AHT), whereas the control group underwent occupational therapist-guided conventional hand training (CHT). Both of the groups received 40 hand training sessions (robotic and conventional, respectively) of 45 min each, 5 times a week, for 8 consecutive weeks. All of the participants underwent a clinical and electrophysiological assessment (task-related coherence, TRCoh, and short-latency afferent inhibition, SAI) at baseline and after the completion of the training.
The AHT group presented improvements in both of the primary outcomes (Fugl-Meyer Assessment for of Upper Extremity and the Nine-Hole Peg Test) greater than CHT (both p < 0.001). These results were paralleled by a larger increase in the frontoparietal TRCoh in the AHT than in the CHT group (p < 0.001) and a greater rebalance between the SAI of both the hemispheres (p < 0.001).
These data suggest a wider remodelling of sensorimotor plasticity and interhemispheric inhibition between sensorimotor cortices in the AHT compared to the CHT group.
These results provide neurophysiological support for the therapeutic impact of intensive robot-assisted treatment on hand function recovery in individuals with chronic stroke.