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[ARTICLE] Effect of Specific Over Nonspecific VR-Based Rehabilitation on Poststroke Motor Recovery: A Systematic Meta-analysis – Full Text

Background. Despite the rise of virtual reality (VR)-based interventions in stroke rehabilitation over the past decade, no consensus has been reached on its efficacy. This ostensibly puzzling outcome might not be that surprising given that VR is intrinsically neutral to its use—that is, an intervention is effective because of its ability to mobilize recovery mechanisms, not its technology. As VR systems specifically built for rehabilitation might capitalize better on the advantages of technology to implement neuroscientifically grounded protocols, they might be more effective than those designed for recreational gaming.

Objective. We evaluate the efficacy of specific VR (SVR) and nonspecific VR (NSVR) systems for rehabilitating upper-limb function and activity after stroke. Methods. We conducted a systematic search for randomized controlled trials with adult stroke patients to analyze the effect of SVR or NSVR systems versus conventional therapy (CT).

Results. We identified 30 studies including 1473 patients. SVR showed a significant impact on body function (standardized mean difference [SMD] = 0.23; 95% CI = 0.10 to 0.36; P = .0007) versus CT, whereas NSVR did not (SMD = 0.16; 95% CI = −0.14 to 0.47; P = .30). This result was replicated in activity measures.

Conclusions. Our results suggest that SVR systems are more beneficial than CT for upper-limb recovery, whereas NSVR systems are not. Additionally, we identified 6 principles of neurorehabilitation that are shared across SVR systems and are possibly responsible for their positive effect. These findings may disambiguate the contradictory results found in the current literature.

Better medical treatments in the acute phase after stroke have increased survival and with that the number of patients needing rehabilitation with an associated increased burden on the health care system.1 Novel technologies have sought to meet this increased rehabilitation demand and to potentially allow patients to continue rehabilitation at home after they leave the hospital.2 Also, technology has the potential to gather massive and detailed data (eg, kinematic and performance data) that might be useful in understanding recovery after stroke better, improving the quality of diagnostic tools and developing more successful treatment approaches.3 Given these promises, several studies and meta-analyses have evaluated the effectiveness of technologies that use virtual reality (VR) in stroke rehabilitation. In a first review, Crosbie et al4 analyzed 6 studies that used VR to provide upper-limb rehabilitation. Although they found a positive effect, they concluded that the evidence was only weak to moderate given the low quality of the research. A later meta-analysis analyzing 5 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and 7 observational studies suggested a positive effect on a patient’s upper-limb function after training.5 Another meta-analysis of 26 studies by Lohse et al,6 which compared specific VR (SVR) systems with commercial VR games, found a significant benefit for SVR systems as compared with conventional therapy (CT) in both body function and activity but not between the 2 types of systems. This study, however, included a variety of systems that would treat upper-limb, lower-limb, and cognitive deficits. Saywell et al7 analyzed 30 “play-based” interventions, such as VR systems including commercial gaming consoles, rehabilitation tools, and robot-assisted systems. They found a significant effect of play-based versus control interventions in dose-matched studies in the Fugl-Meyer Assessment of the Upper Extremity (FM-UE).7 In contrast, a more recent large-scale analysis of a study with Nintendo Wii–based video games, including 121 patients concluded that recreational activities are as effective as VR.8A later review evaluated 22 randomized and quasi–randomized controlled studies and concluded that there is no evidence that the use of VR and interactive video gaming is more beneficial in improving arm function than CT.9 In all, 31% of the included studies tested nonspecific VR (NSVR) systems (Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox Kinect, Sony PlayStation EyeToy). Hence, although VR-based interventions have been in use for almost 2 decades, their benefit for functional recovery, especially for the upper limb, remains unknown. Possibly, these contradictory results indicate that, at present, studies are too few or too small and/or the recruited participants too variable to be conclusive.10 However, alternative conclusions can be drawn. First, VR is an umbrella term. Studies comparing its impact often include heterogeneous systems or technologies, customized or noncustomized for stroke treatment, addressing a broad range of disabilities. However, effectiveness can only be investigated if similar systems that rehabilitate the same impairment are contrasted. This has been achieved by meta-analyses that investigated VR-based interventions for the lower limb, concluding that VR systems are more effective in improving balance or gait than CT.11Second, a clear understanding of the “active ingredients”3 that should make VR interventions effective in promoting recovery is missing. Therapeutic advantages of VR identified in current meta-analyses are that it might apply principles relevant to neuroplasticity,5,9 such as providing goal-oriented tasks,5,9 increasing repetition and dosage,5,9 providing therapists and patients with additional feedback,5,6,9 and allowing to adjust task difficulty.6 In addition, it has been suggested that the use of VR increases patient motivation,6 enjoyment,8,9 and engagement7; makes intensive task-relevant training more interesting4,7; and offers enriched environments.9 Although motivational aspects are important in the rehabilitation process because they possibly increase adherence,3 their contribution to recovery is difficult to quantify because it relies on patients’ subjective evaluation.7,1215 Rehabilitation methods, whether VR or not, however, need to be objectively beneficial in increasing the patient’s functional ability. Hence, an enormous effort has been expended to identify principles of neurorehabilitation that enhance motor learning and recovery.1624 Consequently, an effective VR system should besides be motivating, also augment CT by applying these principles in the design.23 Following this argument, we advance the hypothesis that custom-made VR rehabilitation systems might have incorporated these principles, unlike off-the-shelf VR tools, because they were created for recreational purposes. Combining the effects of both approaches in one analysis might, thus, mask their real impact on recovery. Again, in the rehabilitation of the lower limb, this effect has been observed. Two meta-analyses investigating the effect of using commercial VR systems for gait and balance training did not find a superior effect, which contradicts the conclusions of the other systematic reviews.11 In upper-limb rehabilitation, this question has not been properly addressed until the most recent review by Aminov et al.25 However, there are several flaws in the method applied that could invalidate the results they found. Specifically, studies were included regardless of their quality, and it is not clear which outcome measurements were taken for the analysis according to the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Function, Disability, and Health (ICF-WHO).26 In addition, a specifically designed rehabilitation system (Interactive Rehabilitation Exercise [IREX])27 was misclassified as an off-the-shelf VR tool. Because their search concluded in June 2017, the more recent evidence is missing. We decided to address these issues by conducting a well-controlled meta-analysis that focuses only on RCTs that use VR technologies for the recovery of the upper limb after stroke. We analyze the effect of VR systems specifically built for rehabilitation (ie, SVR systems) and off-the-shelf systems (ie, NSVR commercial systems) against CT according to the ICF-WHO categories. Also, we extracted 11 principles of motor learning and recovery from established literature that could act as “active ingredients” in the protocols of effective VR systems. Through a content analysis, we identified which principles are present in the included studies and compared their presence between SVR and NSVR systems. We hypothesized, first, that SVR systems might be more effective than NSVR systems as compared with CT in the recovery of upper-limb movement and, second, that this superior effect might be a result of the specific principles included in SVR systems.


This meta-analysis was conducted following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) guidelines.28

Identification of RCTs

We define VR as a computer-based technology that provides the user with a sense of presence in a virtual environment,29 which is induced by exposing the user to computer-generated sources of sensory stimulation that satisfy their perceptual predictions and expected sensorimotor contingencies.30 The studies included aimed at training the upper extremity of stroke patients through active participation, without assistive robotic devices (eg, exoskeleton, end-effector devices) or exogenous stimulation. We compared the impact on body function and activity of 2 kinds of VR systems with CT: SVR and NSVR systems. SVR systems were developed exclusively for neurorehabilitation purposes. NSVR systems, on the other hand, are recreational and/or off-the-shelf video games (eg, Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox). As CT, we considered occupational therapy and physical therapy. To identify all RCTs in these 2 categories, we performed a computerized search in the bibliographic databases MEDLINE (OVID), Cochrane Library Plus (including EMBASE), CINAHL, APA PsycNET, DARE, and PEDro for studies that were published in English from inception until August 7, 2018, the day of the conclusion of the search. The search strategy (Supplementary Table 1) included only RCTs that tested the efficacy of SVR or NSVR systems in recovering the upper limbs of stroke patients who were either in the acute (up to 21 days poststroke), subacute (between 3 weeks and 3 months poststroke), or chronic (after 3 months poststroke) stage. We combined the effects of various chronicity bands because the current literature suggests that principles of motor learning interact constantly with the biological processes of recovery,31 and therefore, no differential effect between SVR and NSVR systems resulting from chronicity should be expected. This notion has also been confirmed by the latest meta-analysis.25 In addition, splitting the identified literature into VR type, ICF-WHO category, and chronicity reduces statistical power because of the small number of studies remaining in each band. Two reviewers (BRB and MM) assessed the studies for eligibility. We excluded studies that were not carried out on humans, lacked a control group, included less than 5 participants per experimental condition, did not target upper-extremity rehabilitation, used exoskeletons as interfaces, used exogenous stimulation (such as transcranial stimulation), or did not provide information on standard clinical scales (Figure 1). Exoskeletons and exogenous stimulation protocol where excluded for the passive or active support provided in the rehabilitation process that might lead to different outcomes.


Figure 1. Study flow diagram (PRISMA). The selection process of identified randomized controlled trials.



Continue —>  Effect of Specific Over Nonspecific VR-Based Rehabilitation on Poststroke Motor Recovery: A Systematic Meta-analysis – Martina Maier, Belén Rubio Ballester, Armin Duff, Esther Duarte Oller, Paul F. M. J. Verschure, 2019

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[ARTICLE] Rehabilitation of Motor Function after Stroke: A Multiple Systematic Review Focused on Techniques to Stimulate Upper Extremity Recovery – Full Text

Associated Data

Supplementary Materials


Stroke is one of the leading causes for disability worldwide. Motor function deficits due to stroke affect the patients’ mobility, their limitation in daily life activities, their participation in society and their odds of returning to professional activities. All of these factors contribute to a low overall quality of life. Rehabilitation training is the most effective way to reduce motor impairments in stroke patients. This multiple systematic review focuses both on standard treatment methods and on innovating rehabilitation techniques used to promote upper extremity motor function in stroke patients. A total number of 5712 publications on stroke rehabilitation was systematically reviewed for relevance and quality with regards to upper extremity motor outcome. This procedure yielded 270 publications corresponding to the inclusion criteria of the systematic review. Recent technology-based interventions in stroke rehabilitation including non-invasive brain stimulation, robot-assisted training, and virtual reality immersion are addressed. Finally, a decisional tree based on evidence from the literature and characteristics of stroke patients is proposed. At present, the stroke rehabilitation field faces the challenge to tailor evidence-based treatment strategies to the needs of the individual stroke patient. Interventions can be combined in order to achieve the maximal motor function recovery for each patient. Though the efficacy of some interventions may be under debate, motor skill learning, and some new technological approaches give promising outcome prognosis in stroke motor rehabilitation.


The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that stroke events in EU countries are likely to increase by 30% between 2000 and 2025 (Truelsen et al., ). The most common deficit after stroke is hemiparesis of the contralateral upper limb, with more than 80% of stroke patients experiencing this condition acutely and more than 40% chronically (Cramer et al., ). Common manifestations of upper extremity motor impairment include muscle weakness or contracture, changes in muscle tone, joint laxity, and impaired motor control. These impairments induce disabilities in common activities such as reaching, picking up objects, and holding onto objects (for a review on precision grip deficits, see Bleyenheuft and Gordon, ).

Motor paresis of the upper extremity may be associated with other neurological manifestations that affect the recovery of motor function and thus require focused therapeutic intervention. Deficits in somatic sensations (body senses such as touch, temperature, pain, and proprioception) after stroke are common with prevalence rates variously reported to be 11–85% (Carey et al., ; Yekutiel, ; Hunter, ). Functionally, the motor problems resulting from sensory deficits after stroke can be summarized as (1) impaired detection of sensory information, (2) disturbed motor tasks performance requiring somatosensory information, and (3) diminished upper extremity rehabilitation outcomes (Hunter, ). Sensation is essential for safety even if there is adequate motor recovery (Yekutiel, ). Also, up to 50% of patients experience pain of the upper extremity during the first year after stroke, especially shoulder pain and complex regional pain syndrome-type I (CRPS-type I), which may impede adequate early rehabilitation (Jönsson et al., ; Kocabas et al., ; Sackley et al., ; Lundström et al., ). Furthermore, joint subluxation and muscle contractures can lead to nociceptive musculoskeletal pain (de Oliveira et al., ). Among other complications of stroke the neglect syndrome (Ringman et al., ) and spasticity (Sommerfeld et al., ; Welmer et al., ) affect motor and functional outcomes.

The neurological recovery after stroke displays a nonlinear, logarithmic pattern (Figure (Figure1;1; Kwakkel et al., ; Langhorne et al., ). The greater part of recovery is reported to take place in the first 3 months following stroke (Wade et al., ). However, there is evidence that recovery is not limited to this time period; hand and upper extremity recovery has been reported many years after stroke (Carey et al., ; Yekutiel and Guttman, ). Improvement probably occurs through a complex combination of spontaneous and learning-dependent processes including: restitution, substitution, and compensation (Kwakkel et al., ; Langhorne et al., ). Until the third month after stroke onset, a variable spontaneous neurological recovery can be considered a confounder of rehabilitation intervention (Kwakkel et al., ). In the past, the observation of spontaneous recovery after stroke has misled some authors to believe that recovery of upper extremity function is intrinsic and that little can be done by therapists to influence it (Wade et al., ; Heller et al., ). Progresses in functional outcome appearing after 3 months seem largely dependent on learning adaptation strategies (Kwakkel et al., ). Evidence suggests that neurological repair through brain reorganization supporting true recovery or, alternatively through compensation, may also take place in the subacute and chronic phase after stroke (Krakauer, ).

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Figure 1
Hypothetical pattern of recovery after stroke with timing of intervention strategies. The neurological recovery after stroke displays a nonlinear, logarithmic pattern. The greater part of recovery is reported to take place in the first three months following stroke. Rehabilitation interventions targeting at improving a stroke patients’ performance should be implemented according to the phase of neurological recovery. Reprinted from Langhorne et al. (), Copyright [2011] by Elsevier. Reprinted with permission.



Continue —> Rehabilitation of Motor Function after Stroke: A Multiple Systematic Review Focused on Techniques to Stimulate Upper Extremity Recovery

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[Abstract] How is sexuality after stroke experienced by stroke survivors and partners of stroke survivors? A systematic review of qualitative studies

To synthesise how post-stroke sexuality is experienced by stroke survivors and partners of stroke survivors.

MEDLINE, PubMed, SCOPUS, CINAHL and PsycINFO were searched from inception to May 2018 using a combination of relevant Medical Subject Headings and Free Text Terms. Only papers published in English reporting original qualitative research were included. Methodological quality was assessed using the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme Qualitative Research Checklist. All text presented as ‘results’ or ‘findings’ in the included studies was extracted and subjected to a thematic analysis and synthesis which was discussed and agreed by the research team.

The initial search yielded 136 unique papers with a further 8 papers identified through reference checking. Following full-text review, 43 papers were included in the final synthesis. Two analytical themes were identified: sexuality is silenced and sexuality is muted and sometimes changed, but not forgotten. These themes were made up of six descriptive themes: struggle to communicate within relationships, health professionals don’t talk about sexuality, sexuality and disability is a taboo topic, changes to pre-stroke relationships, changed relationship with the stroke survivor’s own body and resuming sexual intimacy – adaptation and loss.

Stroke has a profound impact on how sexuality is experienced by both stroke survivors and partners of stroke survivors. Despite this, post-stroke sexuality is rarely discussed openly. Stroke survivors and partners value sexuality and may benefit from strategies to support adjustment to post-stroke sexuality.

via How is sexuality after stroke experienced by stroke survivors and partners of stroke survivors? A systematic review of qualitative studies – Margaret McGrath, Sandra Lever, Annie McCluskey, Emma Power, 2018

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[Abstract] Additional physical therapy services reduce length of stay and improve health outcomes in people with acute and sub-acute conditions: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis



To update a previous review on whether additional physical therapy services reduce length of stay, improve health outcomes, are safe and cost effective for patients with acute or sub-acute conditions.

Data sources

Electronic database (AMED, CINAHL, EMBASE, MEDLINE, PEDro, PubMed) searches were updated from 2010 through June 2017.

Study selection

Randomized controlled trials evaluating additional physical therapy services on patient health outcomes, length of stay or cost effectiveness were eligible. Searching identified 1524 potentially relevant articles, of which 11 new articles from 8 new randomized controlled trials with 1563 participants were selected. In total, 24 randomized controlled trials with 3262 participants are included in this review.

Data extraction

Data were extracted using the form used in the original systematic review. Methodological quality was assessed using the PEDro scale and The Grading of Recommendation Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approach was applied to each meta-analysis.

Data synthesis

Post intervention data were pooled with an inverse variance, random effects model to calculate standardized mean differences (SMDs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs). There is moderate quality evidence that additional physical therapy services reduced length of stay by 3 days in sub-acute settings (MD-2.8, 95%CI -4.6 to -0.9, I20%) and low quality evidence that it reduced length of stay by 0.6 days in acute settings (MD -0.6, 95%CI -1.1 to 0.0, I2 65%). Additional physical therapy led to small improvements in self-care (SMD 0.11, 95%CI 0.03 to 0.19, I2 0%), activities of daily living (SMD 0.13, 95%CI 0.02 to 0.25, I2 15%) and health-related quality of life (SMD 0.12, 95%CI 0.03 to 0.21, I2 0%), with no increases in adverse events. There was no significant change in walking ability. One trial reported that additional physical therapy was likely to be cost-effective in sub-acute rehabilitation.


Additional physical therapy services improve patient activity and participation outcomes, while reducing hospital length of stay for adults. These benefits are likely safe and there is preliminary evidence to suggest they may be cost effective.

via Additional physical therapy services reduce length of stay and improve health outcomes in people with acute and sub-acute conditions: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis – Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

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[Abstract] Rehabilitation Interventions for Upper Limb Function in the First Four Weeks Following Stroke: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Evidence



To investigate the therapeutic interventions reported in the research literature and synthesize their effectiveness in improving upper limb (UL) function in the first 4 weeks poststroke.

Data Sources

Electronic databases and trial registries were searched from inception until June 2016, in addition to searching systematic reviews by hand.

Study Selection

Randomized controlled trials (RCTs), controlled trials, and interventional studies with pre/posttest design were included for adults within 4 weeks of any type of stroke with UL impairment. Participants all received an intervention of any physiotherapeutic or occupational therapeutic technique designed to address impairment or activity of the affected UL, which could be compared with usual care, sham, or another technique.

Data Extraction

Two reviewers independently assessed eligibility of full texts, and methodological quality of included studies was assessed using the Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool.

Data Synthesis

A total of 104 trials (83 RCTs, 21 nonrandomized studies) were included (N=5225 participants). Meta-analyses of RCTs only (20 comparisons) and narrative syntheses were completed. Key findings included significant positive effects for modified constraint-induced movement therapy (mCIMT) (standardized mean difference [SMD]=1.09; 95% confidence interval [CI], .21–1.97) and task-specific training (SMD=.37; 95% CI, .05–.68). Evidence was found to support supplementary use of biofeedback and electrical stimulation. Use of Bobath therapy was not supported.


Use of mCIMT and task-specific training was supported, as was supplementary use of biofeedback and electrical simulation, within the acute phase poststroke. Further high-quality studies into the initial 4 weeks poststroke are needed to determine therapies for targeted functional UL outcomes.


via Rehabilitation Interventions for Upper Limb Function in the First Four Weeks Following Stroke: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Evidence – Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

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[ARTICLE] Systematic Review of Appropriate Robotic Intervention for Gait Function in Subacute Stroke Patients – Full Text


The purpose of this study was to critically evaluate the effects of robot-assisted gait training (RAGT) on gait-related function in patients with acute/subacute stroke. We conducted a systematic review of randomized controlled trials published between May 2012 and April 2016. This search included 334 articles (Cochrane, 51 articles; Embase, 175 articles; PubMed, 108 articles). Based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria, 7 studies were selected for this review. We performed a quality evaluation using the PEDro scale. In this review, 3 studies used an exoskeletal robot, and 4 studies used an end-effector robot as interventions. As a result, RAGT was found to be effective in improving walking ability in subacute stroke patients. Significant improvements in gait speed, functional ambulatory category, and Rivermead mobility index were found with RAGT compared with conventional physical therapy . Therefore, aggressive weight support and gait training at an early stage using a robotic device are helpful, and robotic intervention should be applied according to the patient’s functional level and onset time of stroke.

1. Introduction

Stroke is a common disease [1]. In most patients, disabilities remain after stroke, and long-lasting disability requires continuous management and intensive rehabilitation [12]. Furthermore, the economic burden on the patient increases because of the prolonged rehabilitation period. Therefore, the application of intensive and efficient rehabilitation programs and techniques is an urgent need after stroke [3].

Gait impairment is one of the most important problems after stroke and is associated with activities of daily living and mobility issues [4]. Therefore, recovery of gait function is an important goal of rehabilitation for independent living [5]. Interventions to enhance gait function require repetitive task training with high intensity, and extensive effort by physical therapists is essential [5]. Moreover, the most effective rehabilitation intervention, including gait training, must be performed shortly after stroke and in an intensive and task-oriented manner and should include multisensory stimulation [3].

Robot-assisted gait training (RAGT) for patients in the acute/subacute stage who are nonambulatory is effective at reeducating motor control function through repetitive training of a specific task [6]; RAGT provides intensive therapy, which reduces the burden on therapists, and enhances motor reeducation with multisensory stimulation [3]. Several previous studies reported that gait training using robotic devices is effective at enhancing muscular activity patterns [7], muscle tone, joint range of motion [8], gait speed, functional gait capability [79], gait independence, and mobility in the community [1011]. Moreover, patients who received RAGT and conventional physical therapy had a higher chance of regaining independent gait function than those who received only conventional gait training [12]. However, owing to studies that suggested RAGT is ineffective [13], the effect on gait and gait-related function in subacute stroke remains unclear. In a previous review of effectiveness in stroke patients, the RAGT group showed significant improvement in balance and balance-related activity function, but the comparison between the groups was not significant [14]. These results show that RAGT is effective, but whether it is more effective than other gait-related rehabilitation interventions is still unclear. In this context, the effect of RAGT is still not clearly demonstrated, and reviews that have recently demonstrated the effect of RAGT on gait-related outcome measures in patients with acute/subacute stroke are also limited.

Therefore, the aim of this systematic review was to investigate the effects of RAGT on acute/subacute stroke. The specific goals included identifying the effects of RAGT using assessment tools associated with gait and gait-related function in patients with acute/subacute stroke.[…]

Continue —>  Systematic Review of Appropriate Robotic Intervention for Gait Function in Subacute Stroke Patients

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[ARTICLE] Cannabinoids in the Treatment of Epilepsy: Hard Evidence at Last? – Full Text PDF

The interest in cannabis-based products for the treatment of refractory epilepsy has skyrocketed in recent years. Marijuana and other cannabis products with high content in Δ(9) –tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), utilized primarily for recreational purposes, are generally unsuitable for this indication, primarily because THC is associated with many undesired effects. Compared with THC, cannabidiol (CBD) shows a better defined anticonvulsant profile in animal models and is largely devoid of adverse psychoactive effects and abuse liability. Over the years, this has led to an increasing use of CBD-enriched extracts in seizure disorders, particularly in children. Although improvement in seizure control and other benefits on sleep and behavior have been often reported, interpretation of the data is made difficult by the uncontrolled nature of these observations. Evidence concerning the potential anti-seizure efficacy of cannabinoids reached a turning point in the last 12 months, with the completion of three high-quality placebo-controlled adjunctive-therapy trials of a purified CBD product in patients with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. In these studies, CBD was found to be superior to placebo in reducing the frequency of convulsive (tonic-clonic, tonic, clonic, and atonic) seizures in patients with Dravet syndrome, and the frequency of drop seizures in patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. For the first time, there is now class 1 evidence that adjunctive use of CBD improves seizure control in patients with specific epilepsy syndromes. Based on currently available information, however, it is unclear whether the improved seizure control described in these trials was related to a direct action of CBD, or was mediated by drug interactions with concomitant medications, particularly a marked increased in plasma levels of N-desmethylclobazam, the active metabolite of clobazam. Clarification of the relative contribution of CBD to improved seizure outcome requires re-assessment of trial data for the subgroup of patients not comedicated with clobazam, or the conduction of further studies controlling for the confounding effect of this interaction. (2017;7:61-76) […]

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[ARTICLE] User Acceptance of Computerized Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression: Systematic Review – Full Text


Background: Computerized cognitive behavioral therapy (cCBT) has been proven to be effective in depression care. Moreover, cCBT packages are becoming increasingly popular. A central aspect concerning the take-up and success of any treatment is its user acceptance.

Objective: The aim of this study was to update and expand on earlier work on user acceptance of cCBT for depression.

Methods: This paper systematically reviewed quantitative and qualitative studies regarding the user acceptance of cCBT for depression. The initial search was conducted in January 2016 and involved the following databases: Web of Science, PubMed, the Cochrane Library, and PsycINFO. Studies were retained if they described the explicit examination of the user acceptance, experiences, or satisfaction related to a cCBT intervention, if they reported depression as a primary outcome, and if they were published in German or English from July 2007 onward.

Results: A total of 1736 studies were identified, of which 29 studies were eligible for review. User acceptance was operationalized and analyzed very heterogeneously. Eight studies reported a very high level of acceptance, 17 indicated a high level of acceptance, and one study showed a moderate level of acceptance. Two qualitative studies considered the positive and negative aspects concerning the user acceptance of cCBT. However, a substantial proportion of reviewed studies revealed several methodical shortcomings.

Conclusions: In general, people experience cCBT for depression as predominantly positive, which supports the potential role of these innovative treatments. However, methodological challenges do exist in terms of defining user acceptance, clear operationalization of concepts, and measurement.



Depressive disorders are among the most common and serious mental illnesses [1]. Globally, 350 million people of all ages are estimated to suffer from depression. If depressive disorders are detected at an early stage, they are highly treatable in the majority of cases [2]. There are known effective psychological treatments, for example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) [3]. However, individuals suffering from depression often find themselves confronted with barriers to receiving appropriate care such as social stigma associated with mental disorders, long waiting times, or the logistical difficulties of appearing in person for treatment [4,5]. For these reasons, computerized programs present an innovative approach to improving access to psychological treatments for depression. There is evidence that computerized cognitive behavioral therapy (cCBT) is effective in the treatment of various mental disorders, including depression [610]. There are a number of advantages that are associated with cCBT such as anonymity, wide availability, or location-independent and around-the-clock access [9,11]. Well-known cCBT programs such as Beating The Blues and MoodGYM have been shown to provide a promising option for the treatment of mental health problems [9,12,13]. A prerequisite for cCBT programs to be effective is its user acceptance, as the implementation of an innovative intervention such as cCBT can be affected negatively because of individuals being unwilling to use it. For example, the absence of a contact person and the resulting anonymity can have a negative impact on the user’s motivation to start or keep up with a cCBT program. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to consider user acceptance when developing and implementing a cCBT program for the treatment of depression.

The concept of user acceptance arose as a key term in the scientific discourse. Definitions of the term differ widely depending on the intended use [14]. One of the most popular approaches is the technology acceptance model (TAM) developed by Davis [15]. TAM illustrates user acceptance determined by two factors: perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use. According to Davis [15], both have a significant impact on a person’s attitude toward using a new technology. Kollmann [16] and Rogers [17] went one step further and combined different phases in their acceptance models. Therefore, the user passes through phases from getting to know a new technology, to forming an attitude toward it, to a decision whether to use or not to the confirmation of the decision. On this basis, user acceptance can be defined as the willingness of individuals to employ information technology for the tasks it is designed to support, the realization, and approval of the decision to employ. All of these models have one thing in common: user acceptance is considered to be a process beginning with an attitude toward the innovation and developing into satisfaction with the innovation; it is not an instantaneous act. Accordingly, we have conceived acceptance as the act of accepting, experiencing, and being satisfied.

Since the emergence of the first cCBT programs, there have been a number of reviews addressing the user acceptance of cCBT; however, they have utilized different approaches. In their reviews, Titov [18], Andrews et al [8], and Vallury et al [19] focused broadly on effectiveness and user acceptance of cCBT for several mental disorders, including depression and anxiety disorders. Waller and Gilbody [20] reviewed quantitative and qualitative studies examining adverse consequences, accessibility, and acceptability of cCBT programs for treating anxiety and depression. However, Kaltenthaler et al [21] provide the only review with a very comprehensive and focused insight into the user acceptance of cCBT for depression, including research up to June 2007. They systematically reviewed sources of information on acceptability to patients of cCBT for depression. As a result, they documented several studies reporting positive expectancies and high satisfaction in routine care cCBT services for those completing the treatment and argued that studies should reveal more detailed information on patient recruitment methods, dropout rates, and reasons for dropping out. Furthermore, they drafted well-designed surveys and qualitative studies included alongside trials to determine levels of patient acceptability as implications for further research.

On this basis, we provide a systematic overview on user acceptance of cCBT for depression over the last 10 years and widen the perspective to include the notion that the process of user acceptance spans a number of phases, including accepting, experiencing, and being satisfied with cCBT. We intend to answer the following research questions: (1) which measures were used to examine the user acceptance of cCBT for depression? and (2) to what degree do users accept cCBT for depression? […]

Continue —> JMIR-User Acceptance of Computerized Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression: Systematic Review | Rost | Journal of Medical Internet Research

Figure 2. Recommended examination of user acceptance.

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[ARTICLE] Agent-based systems for telerehabilitation: strengths, limitations and future challenges (PDF Download Available) – Full Text

Telerehabilitation in older adults is most needed in the patient environments, rather than in formal ambulatories or hospitals. Supporting such practices brings significant advantages to patients, their family, formal and informal caregivers, clinicians, and researchers. Several techniques and technologies have been developed aiming at facilitating and enhancing the effectiveness of telerehabilitation. This paper gives a quick overview of the state of the art, investigating video-based, wear-able, robotic, distributed, and gamified telerehabilitation solutions. In particular, agent-based solutions are analyzed and discussed addressing strength, limitations, and future challenges. Elaborating on functional requirements expressed by professional physiotherapists and researchers, the need for extending multi-agent systems (MAS) peculiarities at the sensing level in wearable solutions establishes new research challenges. Employed in cyber-physical scenarios with users-sensors and sensors-sensors interactions, MAS are requested to handle timing constraints, scarcity of resources and new communication means, which are crucial for providing real-time feedback and coaching.
1 Introduction
Healthcare institutions are facing the strain of a significantly larger elderly population [1]. Lengthening life expectancy is met by an increasing demand for medical and technological contributions to extend the ”good-health”, and disability free period.
The major factor catalyzing the elderly’s impairing process is the progres-
sive reduction of mobility, due to the natural aging process, inactivity, dis-
eases such as osteoarthritis, stroke or other neurological conditions, falls with its consequences, such as fear of falls (leading to inactivity), or fractures (needing surgery).Despite the emergence of less-invasive surgical techniques, post-intervention rehabilitation still requires extended periods and tailored therapies, which usually involve complications. Performing traditional rehabilitative practices is leading to a significant increase in public-health costs and, in some cases a lack of resources, thus worsening the services’ quality. Rehabilitation is often a long process and needs to be sustained long after the end of the acute care. Simplifying the access to health services [2] can raise the number of patients, maintaining (or even increasing) the quality of care. For example, patients requiring support, such as continuous or selective monitoring, can benefit from systems that automatically transmit the information gathered in their domestic environment to the health clinics, thus enabling telemonitoring on their health conditions [3].
Although in traditional solutions telemonitoring is a self-contained practice
limited to passively observing the patients, the need for remote sensing is crucially coupled with the need for coaching older adults in their daily living [4,5].
For example, a critical activity such as telerehabilitation cannot be limited
to observing the patients’ behaviors. Indeed, patient adherence and acceptability of rehabilitative practices need to be actively enhanced, overcoming pitfalls due to motor (e.g., endurance), non-motor (e.g., fatigue, pain, dysautonomic symptoms, and motivational), and cognitive deficits. According to Rodriguez et al. [6], telerehabilitation can be formally defined as:
“the application of telecommunication, remote sensing and operation tech-
nologies, and computing technologies to assist with the provision of med-
ical rehabilitation services at a distance.”
Patients, physiotherapists, and health institutes can gain several benefits
from an extensive adoption of telerehabilitation systems [7]. Considering the
economical point of view, Mozaffarian et al. [8] figured out that the total cost
of stroke in the US was estimable to be 34.3 billion dollars in 2008, rising up to 69.1 billion dollars in 2016.
Even though to date they are not precisely quantifiable due to insufficient evidence [9], Mutingi et al. [10] presented as “inevitable advantages”
(i) a substantial cost saving primarily due to the reduction of specialized human resources,
(ii) an enhancement of patient comfort and lifestyle, and (iii) improvements of therapy and decision making processes. Moreover, Morreale et al. [11] mentioned one of the most appreciated benefits: the increase of adherence to rehabilitation protocols.
The multitude of scientific contributions fostering telerehabilitation exploits
new technologies and various architectures to better understand and serve user requirements. However, due to technological or technical limitations, physiotherapists’ needs have not yet been completely satisfied. To fill this gap, a system evolution is required. For example, telerehabilitation systems cannot offer the same behavior to users with diverse conditions. Viceversa, according to the environment condition, they must rather be able to adapt themselves to the user needs [6].
Telerehabilitation is characterized by a very delicate equilibrium between
environment, devices, and users. Thus, the capabilities such as self adaptation, flexibility, and ubiquity are crucial to facilitate and promote the usability and then the actual practices.
Agent-based systems for telerehabilitation: strengths, limitations and future challenges (PDF Download Available). Available from: [accessed May 26, 2017].

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Fig. 2. Agent-based sensing: future challenge for telerehabilitation MAS. 

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[ARTICLE] Visual Impairment Following Stroke – The Impact on Quality of Life: A Systematic Review – Full Text PDF


Background: The visual impairments caused by stroke have the potential to affect the ability of an individual to perform activities of daily living. An individual with visual impairment may also have reduced level of independence. The purpose of this review was to investigate the impact on quality of life from stroke related visual impairment, using subjective patient reported outcome measures.

Methods: A systematic search of the literature was performed. The inclusion criteria required studies to have adult participants (aged 18 years or over) with a diagnosis of a visual impairment directly resulting from a stroke. Studies which included visual impairment as a result of other intracranial aetiology, were included if over half of the participants were stroke survivors. Multiple scholarly online databases and registers of published, unpublished and ongoing trials were searched, in addition articles were hand searched. MESH terms and alternatives in relation to stroke and visual conditions were used. Study selection was performed by two authors independently. Data was extracted by one author and verified by a second. The quality of the evidence was assessed using a quality appraisal tool and reporting guidelines.

Results: This review included 11 studies which involved 5646 participants, the studies used a mixture of generic and vision-specific instruments. The seven instruments used by the included studies were the EQ-5D, LIFE-H, SF-36, NEI VFQ-25, VA LV VFQ-48, SRA-VFP and DLTV.

Conclusion: A reduction in quality of life was reported by all studies in stroke survivors with visual impairment. Some studies used generic instruments, therefore making it difficult to extract the specific impact of the visual impairment as opposed to the other deficits caused by stroke. The majority of studies (8/11) primarily had participants with visual field loss. This skew towards visual field loss and no studies investigating the impact ocular motility prevented a comparison of the effects on quality of life due to different visual impairments caused by stroke. In order to fully understand the impact of visual impairment following stroke on quality of life, further studies need to use an appropriate vision-specific outcome measure and include all types of visual impairment which can result from a stroke.

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