ENGLEWOOD, Colo., June 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Every year, millions of stroke
or brain attack survivors face daunting physical rehabilitation challenges.
It is generally accepted that most will plateau in their recovery three months
after suffering a stroke. But now researchers are finding a new therapy,
bilateral arm training with rhythmic auditory cueing (BATRAC), that involves
repetitive training of both arms acting as a unit in time with a metronome can
improve arm function for some stroke survivors who had their stroke more than
a year before.
At the 5th International Stroke Society World Congress in Vancouver, B.C.,
researchers today announced the BATRAC study results. Stroke therapy patients
who work both arms simultaneously in therapy may gain greater use of the arm
paralyzed by stroke. The dual arm therapy appears to actually re-program
brain neuromuscular pathways. The theory involves rhythmic reaching and
retrieving actions with the healthy and the stroke-impacted arms in beat with
a metronome. Previously, most types of therapy have primarily focused on
either the impacted or the healthy arm, but not on both arms.
While researchers are conducting the therapy, they are also using
functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify areas of the brain
involved in producing arm activity. In some cases, researchers have found
that the brain is increasing the connecting neuromuscular pathways in the
stroke-impacted area of the brain. In other patients new pathways are created
in areas of the brain unaffected by the stroke.
The randomized controlled study included 20 stroke survivors who had their
stroke a median of 30 months prior to the study. Motor function in the entire
group was significantly improved.
"In some patients, using fMRI, we are able to see new areas of the brain
lighting up to compensate for the damaged portion of the brain. We assume
that these new areas are related to the increased function we see after BATRAC
training. Changes after standardized exercises focusing on the affected arm
only are not so apparent in either the brain or arm function although some
gain is still seen," said researcher Dr. Jill Whitall, Department of Physical
Therapy & Rehabilitation Science, University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Allen Wright had a stroke more than three and a half years ago. The
54-year-old African American man lost the use of his entire right side
immediately after his stroke. While he had regained the ability to walk and
talk, he still had limited use of his right arm. Since starting the therapy
at the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center, he can now move this arm
more and perform tasks like washing his left side.
Wright says, "I joined the study because I feel like there is help. I
exercise my right leg everyday and it got better. Now I am exercising my
right arm and I can touch the outside of my left arm. I am not going to let
this stroke get me down."
Additional studies need to be performed to determine the long-range impact
There are more than four million stroke survivors in the United States.
National Stroke Association (NSA) wants stroke survivors to ask their doctors
about the latest in stroke therapy. NSA's mission is to reduce the incidence
and impact of stroke. Based in Englewood, Colo., National Stroke Association
is a leading, independent national nonprofit organization devoting 100 percent
of its efforts and resources to stroke. For more information contact NSA at
1-800-STROKES (767-6537) or visit www.stroke.org.
SOURCE National Stroke Association