Posts Tagged Motor recovery

[Abstract] Update on pharmacotherapy for stroke and traumatic brain injury recovery during rehabilitation

Abstract

PURPOSE OF REVIEW:

This article evaluates whether specific drugs are able to facilitate motor recovery after stroke or improve the level of consciousness, cognitive, or behavioral symptoms after traumatic brain injury.

RECENT FINDINGS:

After stroke, serotonin reuptake inhibitors can enhance restitution of motor functions in depressed as well as in nondepressed patients. Erythropoietin and progesterone administered within hours after moderate to severe traumatic brain injury failed to improve the outcome. A single dose of zolpidem can transiently improve the level of consciousness in patients with vegetative state or minimally conscious state.

SUMMARY:

Because of the lack of large randomized controlled trials, evidence is still limited. Currently, most convincing evidence exists for fluoxetine for facilitation of motor recovery early after stroke and for amantadine for acceleration of functional recovery after severe traumatic brain injury. Methylphenidate and acetylcholinesterase inhibitors might enhance cognitive functions after traumatic brain injury. Sufficiently powered studies and the identification of predictors of beneficial drug effects are still needed.

 

via Update on pharmacotherapy for stroke and traumatic brain injury recovery during rehabilitation. – PubMed – NCBI

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[ARTICLE] Pharmacological Therapies for Motor Recovery After Stroke – Full Text

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

Stroke is the most common serious neurological disorder. To date, the focus for research and trials has been on prevention and acute care. Many patients are left with serious neurological impairments and limitations in activity and participation after stroke. Recent preliminary research and trials suggest that the brain is ‘plastic’ and that the natural history of stroke recovery can be improved by physical therapy and pharmacotherapy. Motor weakness and the ability to walk have been the primary targets for testing interventions that may improve recovery after stroke. Physical therapeutic interventions enhance recovery after stroke; however, the timing, duration and type of intervention require clarification and further trials. Pharmacotherapy, in particular with dopaminergic and selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors, shows promise in enhancing motor recovery after stroke; however, further large-scale trials are required.

Introduction

This review is a framework around an emerging and exciting area of stroke care – maximizing recovery after stroke. Stroke care is a continuum from prevention to hyperacute care to acute care to rehabilitation to community reintegration and back (Figure 1). The traditional medical model of care artificially divides care across multiple healthcare providers and locations. Prevention is most often in the hands of general and primary care medicine with the goal of maximizing stroke risk reduction strategies such as controlling hypertension. Hyperacute stroke care is in the hands of neurologists with a primary goal of providing thrombolysis to as many patients as possible and as quickly as possible. Acute stroke care is in the hands of neurologists and very often in the hands of internal medicine specialists who manage patients according to best practices on acute stroke units in acute care hospitals. Rehabilitation is under the care of physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians and allied health professionals usually in rehabilitation hospitals. Reintegration into the community is in the hands of home care and out-patient providers in the community. One patient, one neurological disorder and so many different care providers and locations.

Figure 1.The continuum of stroke care.

Recent research suggests that we are at the edge of major advances in post-stroke care. Animal and human studies show that the brain is ready to heal immediately after a stroke. The brain is ‘plastic’ and responds to external influences, such as physical therapy. The timing, the intensity and the exact external influence may all be important factors in maximizing recovery. Pharmacotherapy may influence how the injured brain recovers. This complex array of influences and recent research addressing these areas will be elaborated on in this review (Figure 2).

Figure 2.
Multiple factors may influence recovery after stroke.

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[ARTICLE] Assist-as-needed control strategy for upper-limb rehabilitation based on subject’s functional ability – Full Text

The assist-as-needed technique in robotic rehabilitation is a popular technique that encourages patients’ active participation to promote motor recovery. It has been proven beneficial for patients with functional motor disability. However, its application in robotic therapy has been hindered by a poor estimation method of subjects’ functional or movement ability which is required for setting the appropriate robotic assistance. Moreover, there is also the need for consistency and repeatability of the functional ability estimation in line with the clinical procedure to facilitate a wider clinical adoption. In this study, we propose a new technique of estimation of subject’s functional ability based on the Wolf Motor Function Test. We called this estimation the functional ability index. The functional ability index enables the modulation of robotic assistance and gives a more consistent indication of subjects’ upper-limb movement ability during therapy session. Our baseline controller is an adaptive inertia-related controller, which is integrated with the functional ability index algorithm to provide movement assistance as when needed. Experimental studies are conducted on three hemiplegic patients with different levels of upper-limb impairments. Each patient is requested to perform reaching task of lifting a can from table-to-mouth according to the guidelines stipulated in the Wolf Motor Function Test. Data were collected using two inertial measurement unit sensors installed at the flexion/extension joints, and the functional ability score of each patient was rated by an experienced therapist. Results showed that the proposed functional ability index algorithm can estimate patients’ functional ability level consistently with clinical procedure and can modify generated robotic assistance in accordance with patients’ functional movement ability.

The assist-as-needed (AAN) robotic strategy is a popular strategy for encouraging patients’ active participation in robot-assisted rehabilitation therapy. Numerous clinical outcomes have suggested the effectiveness of the AAN scheme to induce neuroplasticity in patients with neurological impairment.1 The AAN strategy focuses on providing the minimal amount of robotic assistance necessary for a patient to complete a movement,2 thus a significant effort is required from the patient. If the patient can perform the task flawlessly, robotic assistance is withdrawn. However, if the patient cannot complete the given task, assistance is offered only as much as it is needed.3

Deploying robotic assistance in accordance with the AAN strategy still come with many shortcomings.3,4 One major issue is how to appropriately estimate patients’ functional ability to set the correct level of robotic assistance. Another issue is the consistency of the estimated subject’s functional ability with clinical data and the repeatability across a wide range of subjects. An appropriate estimation of subject’s functional ability consistent with clinical data can give a realistic basis for deploying robotic assistance, since it gives a measure of subject’s actual disability level or recovery progress.5,6

A few strategies of AAN have been proposed recently which have attempted to address the challenges in the scheme. Wolbrecht et al.7 proposed a model-based robotic assistance strategy which can enable a robot to learn the patients’ ability in real time based on a radial-basis function (RBF). The RBF is applied under an adaptive control framework.

Another AAN strategy was proposed by Pehlivan et al.3 The authors introduced a minimal assist-as-needed (mAAN) strategy which uses a Kalman filter to estimate subjects’ functional inputs instead of the RBF technique that is a sensor-less force estimation strategy. Under the scheme, the ANN strategy is achieved in the following two ways: (1) by updating the derivative feedback gain to modify the bounds of allowable error on the desired trajectory and (2) by decaying a feed-forward disturbance rejection term which reduces the constraint on allowable quick movements. The combined effect could vary the robotic assistance according to the subjects’ capability.8 The potential limitation of this approach is the reliance on the robot model for the estimation of subject’s capability. It is well known that model errors always exist and can significantly excite the disturbance term making it difficult to accurately estimate the subject’s input. There is the implication that different robot models would produce different functional ability estimates which will hinder an appropriate standardization or deployment of robotic assistance for clinical purpose.9,10

Pérez-Rodríguez et al.11 also introduced an AAN strategy called anticipatory assistance-as-needed control algorithm capable of ensuring that the deviation from a patients’ desired trajectory is restored by giving an anticipated force assistance. This way, robotic assistance is always given as a restoring force to maintain the subject on the reference (desired) trajectory. With regards to the validity of this strategy, there are however no experimental studies till date.

Other noteworthy AAN strategies include the rule-based assistive strategy proposed by Wang et al.,12 which is applied in Physiotherabot; the hybrid impedance control for wrist and forearm rehabilitation proposed by Akdoğan and Adli,13 which is applied on a 3-degree-of-freedom (3-DOF) upper-limb rehabilitation robot; and the visual error augmentation-based AAN proposed by Akdoğan et al.,14 which can provide robotic assistance as needed by amplifying tracking error to heighten the participant’s motivation.

Efforts in developing an appropriate estimation strategy for AAN robotic assistance are still on course;15 however, there has been less focus on developing appropriate estimation techniques of subject’s functional ability that are consistent with the clinical procedure and that can be integrated in the control loop to provide robotic assistance.15,16

In this paper, we propose an ANN strategy to direct robotic assistance based on a novel functional ability index (FAI). The main originality of this work is the derivation of the new FAI estimation algorithm in accordance with the clinical procedure for the estimation of subject’s motor ability in movement task. As a preliminary investigation, we derive our FAI following the Wolf Motor Function Test (WMFT), a popular motor function test with consistency over a wide range of neurologically impaired patients. The FAI serves as input to a decay algorithm under the adaptive control law which consequently varies the robotic assistance according to the subject’s functional ability. The FAI is independent on the robot model or controller adaptation law and thus it is unaffected by modelling uncertainties.

The rest of the paper is organized as follows: section ‘System dynamic and control’ presents the dynamics for the robotic rehabilitation system, the proposed FAI, and the proposed control algorithm. Section ‘Experimental study’ presents the data collection and simulation study; section ‘Results’ describes the results; section ‘Discussion’ presents the discussion; and section ‘Conclusion’ concludes the paper.

The mechanical system

The proposed prototype of the exoskeleton system is shown in Figure 1. The system is an upper-limb rehabilitation robotic device with two active degrees of freedom (DOFs) at the shoulder and elbow joint, respectively. If actively controlled, the exoskeleton can permit abduction/adduction (AA) movement of the shoulder joint and flexion/extension (FE) movement of the elbow, thus allowing the possibility of performing the table to mouth reaching task.


                        figure

Figure 1. Exoskeleton device is of 2 degrees of freedom (DOFs).

Continue —> Assist-as-needed control strategy for upper-limb rehabilitation based on subject’s functional ability – Shawgi Younis Ahmed Mounis, Norsinnira Zainul Azlan, Fatai Sado,

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[Abstract + References] A Wireless BCI-FES Based on Motor Intent for Lower Limb Rehabilitation

Abstract

Recent investigations have proposed brain computer interfaces combined with functional electrical stimulation as a novel approach for upper limb motor recovery. These systems could detect motor intention movement as a power decrease of the sensorimotor rhythms in the electroencephalography signal, even in people with damaged brain cortex. However, these systems use a large number of electrodes and wired communication to be employed for gait rehabilitation. In this paper, the design and development of a wireless brain computer interface combined with functional electrical stimulation aimed at lower limb motor recovery is presented. The design requirements also account the dynamic of a rehabilitation therapy by allowing the therapist to adapt the system during the session. A preliminary evaluation of the system in a subject with right lower limb motor impairment due to multiple sclerosis was conducted and as a performance metric, the true positive rate was computed. The developed system evidenced a robust wireless communication and was able to detect lower limb motor intention. The mean of the performance metric was 75%. The results encouraged the possibility of testing the developed system in a gait rehabilitation clinical study.

References

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    Vuckovic, A., Wallace, L., Allan, D.: Hybrid brain-computer interface and functional electrical stimulation for sensorimotor training in participants with tetraplegia: a proof-of-concept study. J. Neurol. Phys. Ther. 39, 3–14 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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[Abstract + References] Motor stroke recovery after tDCS: a systematic review

Abstract

The purpose of the present study was to investigate the effects of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on motor recovery in adult patients with stroke, taking into account the parameters that could influence the motor recovery responses. The second aim was to identify the best tDCS parameters and recommendations available based on the enhanced motor recovery demonstrated by the analyzed studies. Our systematic review was performed by searching full-text articles published before February 18, 2019 in the PubMed database. Different methods of applying tDCS in association with several complementary therapies were identified. Studies investigating the motor recovery effects of tDCS in adult patients with stroke were considered. Studies investigating different neurologic conditions and psychiatric disorders or those not meeting our methodologic criteria were excluded. The main parameters and outcomes of tDCS treatments are reported. There is not a robust concordance among the study outcomes with regard to the enhancement of motor recovery associated with the clinical application of tDCS. This is mainly due to the heterogeneity of clinical data, tDCS approaches, combined interventions, and outcome measurements. tDCS could be an effective approach to promote adaptive plasticity in the stroke population with significant positive premotor and postmotor rehabilitation effects. Future studies with larger sample sizes and high-quality studies with a better standardization of stimulation protocols are needed to improve the study quality, further corroborate our results, and identify the optimal tDCS protocols.

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via Motor stroke recovery after tDCS: a systematic review : Reviews in the Neurosciences

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[Abstract] Task-oriented Motor Learning in Upper Extremity Rehabilitation Post Stroke

Abstract

Background: Upper extremity deficits are the most popular symptoms following stroke. Task-oriented training has the ability to increase motor area excitability in the brain, which can stimulate the recovery of motor control.

Objective: This study was aimed to examine the efficiency of the task-oriented approach on paretic upper extremity following a stroke, and to identify efficient treatment dosage in those populations.

Method: We searched through PubMed, Scopus, Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro), National Rehabilitation Information (REHABDATA), and Web of Science databases. Randomized clinical trials (RCTs) and pseudo-RCTs those investigating upper extremity in patients with stroke published in English language were selected. Different scales and measurement methods to assess range of motion, strength, spasticity, and upper extremity function were considered. The quality assessment of included articles was evaluated utilizing the PEDro scale. Effect sizes were calculated.

Results: Six RCTs were included in the present study. The quality assessment for included studies ranged from 6 to 8 with 6.5 as a median. A total of 456 post-stroke patients, 41.66% of which were women, were included in all studies. The included studies demonstrated a meaningful influence of task-oriented training intervention on the hemiplegic upper limb motor functions but not spasticity post-stroke.

Conclusion: Task-oriented training does not produce a superior effect than other conventional physical therapy interventions in treating upper extremity in patients with stroke. There is no evidence supporting the beneficial effect of task-oriented on spasticity. Task-oriented training with the following dosage 30 to 90 minutes/session, 2 to 3 sessions weekly for 6 to 10 weeks may improve motor function and strength of paretic upper extremity post-stroke.

via Task-oriented Motor Learning in Upper Extremity Rehabilitation Post Stroke – Anas R. Alashram, Giuseppe Annino, Nicola Biagio Mercuri,

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[Abstract] Forced, Not Voluntary, Aerobic Exercise Enhances Motor Recovery in Persons With Chronic Stroke

Background. The recovery of motor function following stroke is largely dependent on motor learning–related neuroplasticity. It has been hypothesized that intensive aerobic exercise (AE) training as an antecedent to motor task practice may prime the central nervous system to optimize motor recovery poststroke.

Objective. The objective of this study was to determine the differential effects of forced or voluntary AE combined with upper-extremity repetitive task practice (RTP) on the recovery of motor function in adults with stroke.

Methods. A combined analysis of 2 preliminary randomized clinical trials was conducted in which participants (n = 40) were randomized into 1 of 3 groups: (1) forced exercise and RTP (FE+RTP), (2) voluntary exercise and RTP (VE+RTP), or (3) time-matched stroke-related education and RTP (Edu+RTP). Participants completed 24 training sessions over 8 weeks.

Results. A significant interaction effect was found indicating that improvements in the Fugl-Meyer Assessment (FMA) were greatest for the FE+RTP group (P = .001). All 3 groups improved significantly on the FMA by a mean of 11, 6, and 9 points for the FE+RTP, VE+RTP, and Edu+RTP groups, respectively. No evidence of a treatment-by-time interaction was observed for Wolf Motor Function Test outcomes; however, those in the FE+RTP group did exhibit significant improvement on the total, gross motor, and fine-motor performance times (P ≤ .01 for all observations).

Conclusions. Results indicate that FE administered prior to RTP enhanced motor skill acquisition greater than VE or stroke-related education. AE, FE in particular, should be considered as an effective antecedent to enhance motor recovery poststroke.

via Forced, Not Voluntary, Aerobic Exercise Enhances Motor Recovery in Persons With Chronic Stroke – Susan M. Linder, Anson B. Rosenfeldt, Sara Davidson, Nicole Zimmerman, Amanda Penko, John Lee, Cynthia Clark, Jay L. Alberts, 2019

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[Abstract] Forced, Not Voluntary, Aerobic Exercise Enhances Motor Recovery in Persons With Chronic Stroke

Background. The recovery of motor function following stroke is largely dependent on motor learning–related neuroplasticity. It has been hypothesized that intensive aerobic exercise (AE) training as an antecedent to motor task practice may prime the central nervous system to optimize motor recovery poststroke.

Objective. The objective of this study was to determine the differential effects of forced or voluntary AE combined with upper-extremity repetitive task practice (RTP) on the recovery of motor function in adults with stroke.

Methods. A combined analysis of 2 preliminary randomized clinical trials was conducted in which participants (n = 40) were randomized into 1 of 3 groups: (1) forced exercise and RTP (FE+RTP), (2) voluntary exercise and RTP (VE+RTP), or (3) time-matched stroke-related education and RTP (Edu+RTP). Participants completed 24 training sessions over 8 weeks.

Results. A significant interaction effect was found indicating that improvements in the Fugl-Meyer Assessment (FMA) were greatest for the FE+RTP group (P = .001). All 3 groups improved significantly on the FMA by a mean of 11, 6, and 9 points for the FE+RTP, VE+RTP, and Edu+RTP groups, respectively. No evidence of a treatment-by-time interaction was observed for Wolf Motor Function Test outcomes; however, those in the FE+RTP group did exhibit significant improvement on the total, gross motor, and fine-motor performance times (P ≤ .01 for all observations).

Conclusions. Results indicate that FE administered prior to RTP enhanced motor skill acquisition greater than VE or stroke-related education. AE, FE in particular, should be considered as an effective antecedent to enhance motor recovery poststroke.

via Forced, Not Voluntary, Aerobic Exercise Enhances Motor Recovery in Persons With Chronic Stroke – Susan M. Linder, Anson B. Rosenfeldt, Sara Davidson, Nicole Zimmerman, Amanda Penko, John Lee, Cynthia Clark, Jay L. Alberts,

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[ARTICLE] Searching for the optimal tDCS target for motor rehabilitation – Full Text

Abstract

Background

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been investigated over the years due to its short and also long-term effects on cortical excitability and neuroplasticity. Although its mechanisms to improve motor function are not fully understood, this technique has been suggested as an alternative therapeutic method for motor rehabilitation, especially those with motor function deficits. When applied to the primary motor cortex, tDCS has shown to improve motor function in healthy individuals, as well as in patients with neurological disorders. Based on its potential effects on motor recovery, identifying optimal targets for tDCS stimulation is essential to improve knowledge regarding neuromodulation as well as to advance the use of tDCS in clinical motor rehabilitation.

Methods and results

Therefore, this review discusses the existing evidence on the application of four different tDCS montages to promote and enhance motor rehabilitation: (1) anodal ipsilesional and cathodal contralesional primary motor cortex tDCS, (2) combination of central tDCS and peripheral electrical stimulation, (3) prefrontal tDCS montage and (4) cerebellar tDCS stimulation. Although there is a significant amount of data testing primary motor cortex tDCS for motor recovery, other targets and strategies have not been sufficiently tested. This review then presents the potential mechanisms and available evidence of these other tDCS strategies to promote motor recovery.

Conclusions

In spite of the large amount of data showing that tDCS is a promising adjuvant tool for motor rehabilitation, the diversity of parameters, associated with different characteristics of the clinical populations, has generated studies with heterogeneous methodologies and controversial results. The ideal montage for motor rehabilitation should be based on a patient-tailored approach that takes into account aspects related to the safety of the technique and the quality of the available evidence.

Introduction

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) is a non-invasive brain stimulation technique which delivers a constant electric current over the scalp to modulate cortical excitability [1,2,3]. Different montages of tDCS may induce diverse effects on brain networks, which are directly dependent on the electrodes positioning and polarity. While anodal tDCS is believed to enhance cortical excitability, cathodal tDCS diminishes the excitation of stimulated areas, and these electrodes montages define the polarity-specific effects of the stimulation [4,5,6]. Due to the effects of tDCS on modulating cortical excitability, especially when applied to the primary motor cortex [2], this method of brain stimulation has been intensively investigated for motor function improvement both in healthy subjects [78] and in various neurological pathologies [910]. Neurological conditions that may obtain benefits from the use of tDCS include Stroke [11,12,13,14], Parkinson’s disease [15], Multiple Sclerosis [1617], among others.

The mechanisms of action underlying the modulation of neuronal activity induced by tDCS are still not completely understood. However, studies have demonstrated that the electric current generated by tDCS interferes in the resting membrane potential of neuronal cells, which modulates spontaneous brain circuits activity [1,2,3]. Some studies have suggested that tDCS could have an effect on neuronal synapsis’ strength, altering the activity of NMDA and GABA receptors, thus triggering plasticity process, such as long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD) [1819]. The long-term effects of tDCS are also thought to be associated to changes in protein synthesis and gene expression [2021]. Additionally, neuroimaging study showed blood flow changes following stimulation, which may be related to a direct effect of tDCS over blood flow, with an increase in oxygen supply on cortical areas and subsequent enhancement of neuronal excitability [22]. Given these mechanisms, tDCS seems to be a potential valuable tool to stimulate brain activity and plasticity following a brain damage.

The advantages of using tDCS include its low cost, ease of application, and safety. To date, there is no evidence of severe adverse events following tDCS in healthy individuals, as well as in patients with neurological conditions, such as stroke [2324]. Among the potential side effects presented after this type of stimulation, the most common ones consist of burn sensation, itching, transient skin irritation, tingling under the electrode, headache, and low intensity discomfort [25]. As serious and irreversible side effects have not been reported, tDCS is considered a relatively safe and tolerable strategy of non-invasive brain stimulation.

The modifications of physiological and clinical responses induced by tDCS are extremely variable, as this type of stimulation can induce both adaptive or maladaptive plastic changes, and a wide spectrum of tDCS parameters influence the effects of this technique. Electrodes combination, montage and shape can easily interfere in the enhancement or inhibition of cortical excitability [626]. Other parameters that may influence these outcomes include current intensity, current flow direction, skin preparation, and stimulation intervals [32728] . In addition, in clinical populations, the heterogeneity of the brain lesions can also influence the inconsistency in tDCS effects [29]. Despite the goal of tDCS of modulating cortical areas by using different parameters, some studies have showed that, by altering cortical excitability, the electrical field could reach subcortical structures, such as basal ganglia, due to brain connections between cortical and subcortical areas [30,31,32,33]. This potential effect on deeper brain structure has supported the broad investigation of tDCS in various disorders, even if the cortical region under stimulating electrode is not directly linked to the neurological condition being investigated. Indeed, the current variable and moderate effect sizes from clinical tDCS studies in stroke encourage researchers to test alternative targets to promote motor recovery in this condition.

In this review, we discuss evidence on the application of four different tDCS montages to promote and enhance motor rehabilitation: [1] anodal tDCS ipsilateral and cathodal tDCS bilateral, [2] combination of central and peripheral stimulation, [3] prefrontal montage and [4] cerebellar stimulation.[…]

 

Continue —> Searching for the optimal tDCS target for motor rehabilitation | Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation | Full Text

figure1

Fig. 1 Motor cortex stimulation in a scenario where the left hemisphere was lesioned. Figure a Anodal stimulation of left primary motor cortex: anode over the left M1 and cathode over the right supraorbital region. Figure b Cathodal stimulation of right primary motor cortex: cathode over the right M1 and anode over the left supraorbital region. Figure c Bilateral stimulation: anode over the affected hemisphere (left) and cathode over the non-affected hemisphere (right)

 

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[NEWS] Brain-controlled, non-invasive muscle stimulation allows chronic paraplegics to walk

Brain-controlled, non-invasive muscle stimulation allows chronic paraplegics to walk again and exhibit partial motor recovery

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IMAGE: THE NON-INVASIVE CLOSED-LOOP NEUROREHABILITATION PROTOCOL: I) EEG: ELECTROENCEPHALOGRAPHY, NON-INVASIVE BRAIN-RECORDING. II) BRAIN-MACHINE INTERFACE: REAL-TIME DECODING OF MOTOR INTENTIONS. III) THE LEFT OR RIGHT LEG MUSCLES ARE STIMULATED TO TRIGGER THE… view more 
CREDIT: WALK AGAIN PROJECT – ASSOCIAÇÃO ALBERTO SANTOS DUMONT PARA APOIO À PESQUISA

In another major clinical breakthrough of the Walk Again Project, a non-profit international consortium aimed at developing new neuro-rehabilitation protocols, technologies and therapies for spinal cord injury, two patients with paraplegia regained the ability to walk with minimal assistance, through the employment of a fully non-invasive brain-machine interface that does not require the use of any invasive spinal cord surgical procedure. The results of this study appeared on the May 1 issue of the journal Scientific Reports.

The two patients with paraplegia (AIS C) used their own brain activity to control the non-invasive delivery of electrical pulses to a total of 16 muscles (eight in each leg), allowing them to produce a more physiological walk than previously reported, requiring only a conventional walker and a body weight support system as assistive devices. Overall, the two patients were able to produce more than 4,500 steps using this new technology, which combines a non-invasive brain-machine interface, based on a 16-channel EEG, to control a multi-channel functional electrical stimulation system (FES), tailored to produce a much smoother gait pattern than the state of the art of this technique.

“What surprised us was that, in addition to allowing these patients to walk with little help, one of them displayed a clear motor improvement by practicing with this new approach. Patients required approximatively 25 sessions to master the training before they were able to walk using this apparatus,” said Solaiman Shokur one of the authors of the study.

The two patients that used this new rehabilitation approach had previously participated in the long-term neurorehabilitation study carried out using the Walk Again Project Neurorehabilitation (WANR) protocol. As reported in a recent publication from the same team (Shokur et al., PLoS One, Nov. 2018), all seven patients who participated in that protocol for a period of 28 months improved their clinical status, from complete paraplegia (AIS A or B, meaning no motor functions below the level of the injury, according to the ASIA classification) to partial paraplegia (AIS C, meaning partial recovery of sensory and motor function below the injury level). This significant neurological recovery included major clinical improvements in sensory discrimination (tactile, nociception, vibration, and pressure), voluntary motor control of abdomen and leg muscles, and important gains in autonomic control, such as bladder, bowel, and sexual functions.

“The last two studies published by the Walk Again Project clearly indicate that partial neurological and functional recovery can be induced in chronic spinal cord injury patients by combining multiple non-invasive technologies that are based around the concept of using a brain-machine interface to control different types of actuators, like virtual avatars, robotic walkers, or muscle stimulating devices, to allow the total involvement of patients in their own rehabilitation routine,” said Miguel Nicolelis, scientific director of the Walk Again Project and one of the authors of the study.

In a recent report by another group, one AIS C and two AIS D patients were able to walk thanks to the employment of an invasive method for spinal cord electrical stimulation, which required a spinal surgical procedure. In contrast, in the present study two AIS C patients – which originally were AIS A (see Supplemental Material below)- and a third AIS B subject, who recently achieved similar results, were able to regain a significant degree of autonomous walking without the need for such invasive treatments. Instead, these patients only received electrical stimulation patterns delivered to the skin surface of their legs, so that a total of eight muscles in each limb could be electrically stimulated in a physiologically accurate sequence. This was done in order to produce a smoother and more natural pattern of locomotion.

“Crucial for this implementation was the development of a closed-loop controller that allowed real-time correction of the patients’ walking pattern, taking into account muscle fatigue and external perturbations, in order to produce a predefined gait trajectory. Another major component of our approach was the use of a wearable haptic display to deliver tactile feedback to the patients´ forearms in order to provide them with a continuous source of proprioceptive feedback related to their walking,” said Solaiman Shokur.

To control the pattern of electrical muscle stimulation in each leg, these patients utilized an EEG-based brain-machine interface. In this setup, patients learned to alternate the generation of “stepping motor imagery” activity in their right and left motor cortices, in order to create alternated movements of their left and right legs.

According to the authors, the patients exhibited not only “less dependency on walking assistance, but also partial neurological recovery, with substantial rates of motor improvement in one of them.” The improvement in motor control in this last AIS C patient was 9 points in the lower extremity motor score (LEMS), which was comparable with that observed using invasive spinal cord stimulation.

Based on the results obtained over the past 5 years, the WAP now intends to combine all its neurorehabilitation tools into a single integrated, non-invasive platform to treat spinal cord injury patients. This platform will allow patients to begin training soon after the injury occurs. It will also allow the employment of a multi-dimensional integrated brain-machine interface capable of simultaneously controlling virtual and robotic actuators (like a lowerlimb exoskeleton), a multi-channel non-invasive electrical muscle stimulation system (like the FES used in the present study), and a novel non-invasive spinal cord stimulation approach. In this final configuration, this WAP platform will incorporate all these technologies together in order to maximize neurological and functional recovery in the shortest possible time, without the need of any invasive procedure.

According to Dr. Nicolelis, “there is no silver bullet to treat spinal cord injuries. More and more, it looks like we need to implement multiple techniques simultaneously to achieve the best neurorehabilitation results. In this context, it is also imperative to consider the occurrence of cortical plasticity as a major component in the planning of our rehabilitation approach.”

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The other authors of this paper are Aurelie Selfslagh, Debora S.F. Campos, Ana R. C. Donati, Sabrina Almeida, Seidi Y. Yamauti, Daniel B. Coelho and Mohamed Bouri. This project was developed through a collaboration between the Neurorehabilitation Laboratory of the Associação Alberto Santos Dumont para Apoio à Pesquisa (AASDAP), the headquarters of the Walk Again Project, the Biomechanics and Motor Control Laboratory at the Federal University of ABC (UFABC), and the Laboratory of Robotic System at the Swiss Institute of Technology of Lausanne (EPFL). It was funded by a grant from the Brazilian Financing Agency for Studies and Projects (FINEP) 01.12.0514.00, Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications (MCTIC), to AASDAP.

Supplemental Material:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZbQeuJiSOI

Supporting Research Studies:

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0206464

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-43041-9

 

via Brain-controlled, non-invasive muscle stimulation allows chronic paraplegics to walk | EurekAlert! Science News

 

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