ENGLEWOOD, Colo., Oct. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Millions of stroke or brain
attack survivors face daunting physical rehabilitation challenges. Many
plateau in their recovery within three months after their stroke. But new
research published in the October 20, 2004 issue of the Journal of the
American Medical Association (JAMA) shows more than a year after stroke, some
patients are getting back additional use of their arms.
The Bilateral Arm Training with Rhythmic Auditory Cueing (BATRAC) study
demonstrates stroke therapy patients who work both arms simultaneously may
gain greater use of the arm paralyzed by stroke. The therapy appears to
re-program brain neuromuscular pathways by employing rhythmic reaching and
retrieving actions in beat with a metronome. Previously, most types of
therapy have focused on either the impacted or the healthy arm, but not on
both arms. The study is continuing to accept patients.
During therapy researchers use functional magnetic resonance imaging
(fMRI) to identify areas of the brain involved in producing arm activity. In
some cases, the research shows the brain increasing the connecting
neuromuscular pathways in the stroke-impacted area of the brain. In other
patients new pathways are created in areas unaffected by the stroke.
The randomized controlled study includes 21 stroke survivors who
experienced stroke a median of 50 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.
Nearly four years ago Allen Wright had a stroke. The 54 year-old African
American lost the use of his entire right side. While he had regained the
ability to walk and talk, he still had limited use of his right arm. Since
starting therapy at the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center, he can now
move this arm and perform new tasks.
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 are needed to determine the long-range impact of
Based in Englewood, Colo. National Stroke Association devotes 100 percent
of its efforts and resources to stroke. For more information call
1-800-STROKES or visit www.stroke.org.
For interviews about this study contact Diane Mulligan-Fairfield at
SOURCE National Stroke Association