Paralysis of an arm and/or leg is one of the most common effects of a stroke. But thanks to new research, stroke victims may soon be able to recover greater use of their paralyzed limbs. The scientists’ pioneering approach brings together two known types of therapies — a brain-computer interface (BCI) and functional electrical stimulation (FES).

Combining a BCI with FES can help stroke victims recover. (Credit: EPFL)

The key is to stimulate the nerves of the paralyzed arm precisely when the stroke-affected part of the brain activates to move the limb, even if the patient can't actually carry out the movement. That helps reestablish the link between the two nerve pathways where the signal comes in and goes out. The scientists noted a significant improvement in arm mobility among patients in the first group after just 10 one-hour sessions.

Electroencephalographies (EEGs) of the patients clearly showed an increase in the number of connections among the motor cortex regions of their damaged brain hemisphere, which corresponded with the increased ease in carrying out the associated movements. Enhanced motor function did not seem to diminish with time.

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