Brain Re-programming Therapy: New Hope for Disabled Stroke Survivors, According to the National Stroke Association

Oct 19, 2004, 01:00 ET from National Stroke Association

    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
     For interviews about this study contact Diane Mulligan-Fairfield at

SOURCE National Stroke Association