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Evidence of neuroplasticity with robotic hand exoskeleton for post-stroke rehabilitation: a randomized controlled trial

  • Singh, Neha1
  • Saini, Megha1
  • Kumar, Nand2
  • Srivastava, M. V. Padma3
  • Mehndiratta, Amit1, 3
  • 1 Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), New Delhi, India , New Delhi (India)
  • 2 All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, India , New Delhi (India)
  • 3 All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, India , New Delhi (India)
Published Article
Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation
Springer (Biomed Central Ltd.)
Publication Date
May 06, 2021
DOI: 10.1186/s12984-021-00867-7
Springer Nature


BackgroundA novel electromechanical robotic-exoskeleton was designed in-house for the rehabilitation of wrist joint and Metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint.ObjectiveThe objective was to compare the rehabilitation effectiveness (clinical-scales and neurophysiological-measures) of robotic-therapy training sessions with dose-matched conventional therapy in patients with stroke.MethodsA pilot prospective parallel randomized controlled study at clinical settings was designed for patients with stroke within 2 years of chronicity. Patients were randomly assigned to receive an intervention of 20 sessions of 45 min each, five days a week for four weeks, in Robotic-therapy Group (RG) (n = 12) and conventional upper-limb rehabilitation in Control-Group (CG) (n = 11). We intended to evaluate the effects of a novel exoskeleton based therapy on the functional rehabilitation outcomes of upper-limb and cortical-excitability in patients with stroke as compared to the conventional-rehabilitation. Clinical-scales– Modified Ashworth Scale, Active Range of Motion, Barthel-Index, Brunnstrom-stage and Fugl-Meyer (FM) scale and neurophysiological measures of cortical-excitability (using Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) –Motor Evoked Potential and Resting Motor threshold, were acquired pre- and post-therapy.ResultsNo side effects were noticed in any of the patients. Both RG and CG showed significant (p < 0.05) improvement in all clinical motor-outcomes except Modified Ashworth Scale in CG. RG showed significantly (p < 0.05) higher improvement over CG in Modified Ashworth Scale, Active Range of Motion and Fugl-Meyer scale and FM Wrist-/Hand component. An increase in cortical-excitability in ipsilesional-hemisphere was found to be statistically significant (p < 0.05) in RG over CG, as indexed by a decrease in Resting Motor Threshold and increase in the amplitude of Motor Evoked Potential. No significant changes were shown by the contralesional-hemisphere. Interhemispheric RMT-asymmetry evidenced significant (p < 0.05) changes in RG over CG indicating increased cortical-excitability in ipsilesional-hemisphere along with interhemispheric changes.ConclusionRobotic-exoskeleton training showed improvement in motor outcomes and cortical-excitability in patients with stroke. Neurophysiological changes in RG could most likely be a consequence of plastic reorganization and use-dependent plasticity.Trial registry number: ISRCTN95291802

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