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Robot hand helps partially paralysed stroke victims

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Partially paralysed stoke patients can be helped to regain the ability to grasp and pick up objects thanks to a robot that aids hand movements, according to research.

The therapy uses a computer-driven robot device to open and close patients' hands, which can significantly reduce disability long after a stroke has occurred.

The robot wraps a metal 'hand' around the thumb and fingers of the patient, guiding their movement.

US scientists tested 15 patients, with an average age of 61, who were partially paralysed and had suffered strokes up to 10 years before starting the treatment.

The 'motor therapy' technique - which involved computer-aided grasping and releasing, alternating with rest - was tested on seven patients.

Eight others trialled a more complex variation known as 'premotor therapy'. This involved grasping, releasing and resting in response to visual cues, and was designed to engage a higher area of the brain called the premotor cortex.

Two weeks of both forms of therapy produced similar gains, although the 'premotor' technique had greater benefits for six patients who had less disability at the start of the trial.

The findings were presented at the International Stroke Conference in San Diego, California.

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