From Notion to Motion – Retraining the Brain in Stroke Victims to Promote Stroke Recovery

2010-05-18 | |
Last updated: 2010-05-18

Being one of the most devastating and common age-related health issues, strokes are frightening because of their ability to strike with little warning to cause severe disability or even death. While blockages in blood flow or ruptures in the blood vessels themselves can cause strokes, the end result in both cases is death of brain cells.

For those patients who survive a stroke, the damage to their brains will often affect daily living.

Damage from a stroke can cause loss of mobility, vision issues and even personality changes. Some 40 to 60% of patients will lose the ability to control their own bladder. As well, 80 to 90% of those who suffer a stroke will experience some level of muscle weakness. As many as 1 in 4 stroke victims will lose some ability to speak. It goes without saying that issues like these significantly affect the life of a stroke victim.

How Many Are Affected By Stroke?

In the US alone, some 800,000 people experience a stroke annually and overall, strokes are one of the most common causes of disability in industrialized nations. In Australia, the UK and Canada, some 60,000, 150,000 and 50,000 people respectively will suffer a stroke each year. More than 75% of strokes occur in people over the age of 65.

What Is Being Done To Aid Stroke Recovery?

While medical science is involved in research to prevent strokes to limit the damage to the brain when they do occur and is also trying to find ways to repair the brain after a stroke, the reality is that most stroke victims will be left to recover on their own. For the more fortunate, stroke rehabilitation is an important treatment that can greatly improve the life of the stroke victim.

Because of the sheer number of people affected by strokes, various research efforts are attempting to determine effective ways of restoring basic abilities to those who suffer a stroke. Apart from medical treatments, the efforts are focused on retraining and rehabilitating the brain to work around the damaged brain areas.

Regaining Muscle Strength And Control Following A Stroke

One of the disabilities caused by stroke that is most easily recognized, loss of muscle strength and muscle control is also one that is seeing significant benefit from research.

Researchers at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center have found that physiotherapy with robotic or human assistance can substantially improve a patient’s control of a paralyzed arm. With 9 months of therapy involving 3 single hour sessions per week, patients with even multiple strokes were much more able to perform many simple day to day tasks. Further more, those patients who regained more hand and arm control also tended to become more active in general.

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Category: General Health, Medical Research, Medical Treatment

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