Background. In monkey, reticulospinal connections to hand and forearm muscles are spontaneously strengthened following corticospinal lesions, likely contributing to recovery of function. In healthy humans, pairing auditory clicks with electrical stimulation of a muscle induces plastic changes in motor pathways (probably including the reticulospinal tract), with features reminiscent of spike-timing dependent plasticity. In this study, we tested whether pairing clicks with muscle stimulation could improve hand function in chronic stroke survivors.
Methods. Clicks were delivered via a miniature earpiece; transcutaneous electrical stimuli at motor threshold targeted forearm extensor muscles. A wearable electronic device (WD) allowed patients to receive stimulation at home while performing normal daily activities. A total of 95 patients >6 months poststroke were randomized to 3 groups: WD with shock paired 12 ms before click; WD with clicks and shocks delivered independently; standard care. Those allocated to the device used it for at least 4 h/d, every day for 4 weeks. Upper-limb function was assessed at baseline and weeks 2, 4, and 8 using the Action Research Arm Test (ARAT), which has 4 subdomains (Grasp, Grip, Pinch, and Gross).
Results. Severity across the 3 groups was comparable at baseline. Only the paired stimulation group showed significant improvement in total ARAT (median baseline: 7.5; week 8: 11.5; P = .019) and the Grasp subscore (median baseline: 1; week 8: 4; P = .004).
Conclusion. A wearable device delivering paired clicks and shocks over 4 weeks can produce a small but significant improvement in upper-limb function in stroke survivors.
via A Novel Wearable Device for Motor Recovery of Hand Function in Chronic Stroke Survivors – Supriyo Choudhury, Ravi Singh, A. Shobhana, Dwaipayan Sen, Sidharth Shankar Anand, Shantanu Shubham, Suparna Gangopadhyay, Mark R. Baker, Hrishikesh Kumar, Stuart N. Baker,