Stimulation glove for stroke patients

February 24, 2014

A team headed by PD Dr Hubert Dinse and Prof Dr Martin Tegenthoff has successfully treated a number of patients suffering from stroke-related impairments. Their report has been published in RUBIN, the Ruhr-Universität's science magazine.

The gold standard for acquiring new skills is: practise, practise, practise. Playing an instrument or reading braille on a regular basis improves both the motor skills and the sense of touch – because practising results in changes within the brain. Those areas of the brain that represent the hand region enlarge through training. The RUB researchers have achieved the same effect through passive stimulation. As they repeatedly stimulated their subjects' fingers using a specific temporal pattern, the respective cortical maps enlarged. At the same time, the sense of touch in the stimulated fingers improved. People suffering from brain damage such as stroke patients benefit from this effect.

Passive stimulation ameliorates sensory and motor deficits in stroke patients

In Germany, almost 270,000 people suffer from stroke every year. The most frequent damage affects the sense of touch and . In collaboration with various rehabilitation clinics, the RUB researchers have tested the feasibility of passive stimulation as a therapeutic option: about 50 patients were treated after a stroke (sub-acute phase) and several chronic patients were treated long-term over many months. The RUB researches measured the sensitivity of the sense of touch as well as proprioception, i.e. the perception of one's own body, as well as motor behaviour. Using standardised test batteries, they also tested situations: picking up small items, mimicking a feeding behaviour or stacking objects. In almost all cases, the performance improved significantly, although depending on the severity of the stroke event, full recovery is difficult to achieve as is the case with standard therapy.

Easy to apply in everyday life

The chronic patients regularly applied repetitive stimulation at home, 45 to 60 minutes per day, five days a week, over a period of more than one year. One advantage is: passive stimulation does not require active participation or particular attention; it can be applied during other activities, such as going for a walk, watching television or reading. Electrical contacts that are integrated into the glove as thin conducting material transmit electric pulses to the fingertips. The patients control the intensity of the stimulation, which should be felt distinctly. Many describe the resulting sensation as a sort of "finger massage". The patented product is distributed by the company BOSANA Medizintechnik.

Alleviating aging effects with passive stimulation

The RUB neuroscientists have been researching passive stimulation for many years, not only in brain-damaged patients, but also in healthy people, both young and old. It is quite common for the sense of touch to imperceptibly deteriorate with age. Older test participants have a higher discrimination threshold than younger ones meaning their tactile acuity is worse. Acuity specifies how large the distance between two stimuli has to be for a person to feel them as two discrete sensations. Through passive stimulation the age-related reduction in acuity has been alleviated, bringing participants aged 70 and older back to acuity values commonly found in participants of 50 years of age.

Explore further: Novel rehabilitation device improves motor skills after stroke

Related Stories

Novel rehabilitation device improves motor skills after stroke

December 2, 2013
Using a novel stroke rehabilitation device that converts an individual's thoughts to electrical impulses to move upper extremities, stroke patients reported improvements in their motor function and ability to perform activities ...

Electrical stimulation to the brain makes learning easier

September 21, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- A new study presented at the British Science Festival by Professor Heidi Johansen-Berg from the University of Oxford shows that the application of small electrical currents to specific parts of the brain ...

Brain does not process sensory information sufficiently, research team discovers

February 13, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—The reason why some people are worse at learning than others has been revealed by a research team from Berlin, Bochum, and Leipzig, operating within the framework of the Germany-wide network "Bernstein ...

Learning through mere exposure

May 11, 2011
In cooperation with colleagues from the Leibniz Institute for Employment Research of the TU Dortmund, neuroscientists in Bochum have demonstrated that human visual perception and attention can be improved without training. ...

Early brain stimulation may help stroke survivors recover language function

June 27, 2013
Non-invasive brain stimulation may help stroke survivors recover speech and language function, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

Deep brain stimulation may help with driving for people with Parkinson's disease

December 18, 2013
Deep brain stimulation may have a beneficial effect on driving ability for people with Parkinson's disease, according to a new study published in the December 18, 2013, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the ...

Recommended for you

'Residual echo' of ancient humans in scans may hold clues to mental disorders

July 26, 2017
Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) have produced the first direct evidence that parts of our brains implicated in mental disorders may be shaped by a "residual echo" from our ancient past. The more ...

Cellular roots of anxiety identified

July 26, 2017
From students stressing over exams to workers facing possible layoffs, worrying about the future is a normal and universal experience. But when people's anticipation of bad things to come starts interfering with daily life, ...

Laser used to reawaken lost memories in mice with Alzheimer's disease

July 26, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers at Columbia University has found that applying a laser to the part of a mouse brain used for memory storage caused the mice to recall memories lost due to a mouse version of Alzheimer's ...

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

Zebrafish study reveals clues to healing spinal cord injuries

July 25, 2017
Fresh insights into how zebrafish repair their nerve connections could hold clues to new therapies for people with spinal cord injuries.

Lutein may counter cognitive aging, study finds

July 25, 2017
Spinach and kale are favorites of those looking to stay physically fit, but they also could keep consumers cognitively fit, according to a new study from University of Illinois researchers.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.