Robot Hand HOWARD Stroke Rehabilitation

HOWARD, the Hand-Wrist Assisting Robotic Device is a robotic therapy device that may help people regain normal strength and use of their hands following a stroke. Stroke causes more long-term disability than any other disease; more than 700,000 Americans suffer strokes annually.

(HOWARD Hand-Wrist Assisting Robotic Device)

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine report that patients have improved ability to grasp and release objects after therapy sessions with HOWARD.

“Most spontaneous improvement in function occurs in the first three months after a stroke, and after that things tend to plateau,” said Dr. Steven C. Cramer, senior author of the study and associate professor in neurology, anatomy and neurobiology at UCI. “Robot-assisted therapy may help rewire the brain and make weak limbs move better long afterwards.”

The Hand-Wrist Assisting Robotic Device wraps around the hand and, in concert with a computer program, directs patients through a physical therapy session. The user initiates hand movement on his or her own; HOWARD monitors the movement and provides assistance to complete each activity.

“The HOWARD therapy isn’t passive; the patient has to jumpstart the program and initiate the motor command,” Cramer said. “But if the hand is weak and can only budge one-tenth of an inch, the robot helps to complete the task so the brain relearns what it’s like to make the full movement.”

HOWARD does more than provide assistance for muscular development. The system helps the brain relearn how to perform tasks. Also, HOWARD captures data from each session, providing an accurate assessment of progress.

Patients using HOWARD developed a 17 percent greater range of motion and a 20 percent increase in measured dexterity.

UCI researchers are already at work planning a "son of HOWARD" with improved hand-robot connections and more software options to individualize therapy and keep patients interested.

Read more about HOWARD here and here.

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