Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Rewriting Life

Robotic Road to Recovery

Americans suffer three-quarters of a million strokes every year. For those who survive, recovery can be long and arduous. It doesn’t help that rehabilitation techniques are, for the most part, still remarkably low-tech. Therapists typically exercise patients’ impaired limbs using repetitive hands-on maneuvers and mark improvements on clipboards. Because it’s labor-intensive, the process is also expensive. Indeed, the annual price tag for the U.S. economy of stroke treatment is $30 billion and will likely escalate as Baby Boomers reach the peak stroke ages and drugs improve survival rates.

One solution: robots to boost the effectiveness and productivity of rehab. Systems designed by Neville Hogan and Hermano I. Krebs of MIT simultaneously deliver therapy and measure recovery of limb control. Playing specifically designed video games, the patient maneuvers the robot’s mechanical arm horizontally, moving it like an oversized computer mouse to work the wrists, elbows and forearms at graded levels of resistance. A computer records the robot arm’s position, velocity and the force the patient exerts.

Hogan and Krebs developed their devices at MIT’s Newman Laboratory for Biomechanics and Human Rehabilitation. They have tested them at the Burke Rehabilitation Center in White Plains, N.Y. Those tests, including a recently completed trial involving 60 stroke victims, show that, on average, patients receiving robotic therapy regained control of their shoulders and elbows at twice the rate of those limited to standard therapy. “These results are encouraging,” says Larry Goldstein, head of the Stroke Policy Program at Duke University Medical Center. “There appears to be some improvement of stroke-related impairments that is long lasting.”

This story is part of our November/December 1999 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

Hogan envisions a clinician working a room full of robot-assisted inpatients, or even demonstrating exercises online and monitoring patients at home who are rigged with robot and modem. The MIT scientists are fine-tuning the system and devising new versions to work with legs and move in three dimensions. Says Krebs: “Our work opens up a vast area of research not only for us, but also for other groups to develop new tools to be used in stroke rehabilitation.”

Want to go ad free? No ad blockers needed.

Become an Insider
Already an Insider? Log in.
More from Rewriting Life

Reprogramming our bodies to make us healthier.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Print Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.