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UC Occupational therapist Valerie Hill Hermann works at the Drake Center, helping stroke survivors regain neuromuscular control for use in everyday life tasks.
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MYOMO robotic arm brace
UC research occupational therapist Valerie Hill Hermann shows how the MYOMO brace helps with stroke recovery therapy at Drake Center.
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UC Occupational therapist Valerie Hill Hermann works at the Drake Center, helping stroke survivors regain neuromuscular control for use in everyday life tasks.
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UC researchers use the MYOMO robotic arm brace in stroke recovery therapy at the Drake Center.
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Research Occupational Therapist Valerie Hill Hermann works with stroke survivor Tony Savicki using the MYOMO robotic arm brace at the Drake Center.
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Publish Date: 07/27/09
Media Contact: Katy Cosse, 513-558-0207
Patient Info: For more information about the MYOMO study, please call (513) 418-5991 or contact Hermann at hillva@ucmail.uc.edu.
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Occupational Therapist Studies Efficacy of Robotic Arm in Stroke Recovery

CINCINNATI With an exclusive grant from the American Heart Association, one University of Cincinnati (UC) researcher will study the best ways for patients to relearn muscle control after a stroke.

Valerie Hill Hermann, a research occupational therapist with UC's College of Allied Health Sciences, works with stroke survivors at Drake Center, a long-term acute care hospital. Specifically, she works with survivors on recovering their neuromuscular control in order to engage in important daily
life tasks.

For two years, the Neuromotor Recovery and Rehabilitation Lab at Drake Center has used the MYOMO E100 Neurobotic system, a robotic arm brace, in rehab studies with study subjects.

The MYOMO, which stands for "my own motion," fits around a patient's upper arm, elbow and forearm.  When the patient initiates flexion or extension of the elbow, the MYOMO's sensors read the movement and the brace actively assists for as long as the patient is trying.

"The patient can exert 10 percent of their ability or 50 percent of their ability and the brace assists to move through the rest of that action," says Hermann, "It only offers assistance. The patient has to learn how to control their muscle movement."

But Hermann wants to make sure the brace is truly as effective as it is cutting-edge: "Sometimes you have really cool technology, but if it costs a lot and doesn't do any better, why should a therapist or patient invest in it?"

Hermann recently received about $120,000 from the American Heart Association over two years to study the MYOMO's effectiveness in traditional therapy. She hopes to learn how best to incorporate the brace into stroke recovery work
if it should be included in regular rehabilitation sessions or used as a supplement to the therapist's work.

She was one of two researchers to receive AHA funding through the Great Rivers Affiliate Spring 2009 Clinical Research Program. Hermann will work with funds designated specifically for graduate students working with mentors. Hermann is pursuing her PhD in rehabilitation sciences at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Stephen Page, director of the Neuromotor Recovery and Rehab Lab, is her mentor for the project.

In the study, Hermann will work with 30 chronic stroke survivors
those who had a stroke more than a year ago. She says future studies will work with acute and subacute stroke patients.

One group of patients will receive more traditional therapy, engaging in task-specific activities and relearning basic movements with progressive difficulty. Another group will receive therapy with the MYOMO robotic arm, and yet another group will receive a combination of both, says Hermann.

All patients will need to relearn the ability to plan movement. They'll also work on relaxing the involuntary muscle contractions that often accompany stroke recovery.

Hermann will measure their progress with traditional testing and, for some, kinematic testing, using joint markers to display a patient's movement on a computer screen.

If MYOMO therapy proves beneficial in stroke recovery, Hermann says it can provide another option for all stroke survivors, especially harder-to-treat patients whom therapists might otherwise discharge.

"If what we're doing isn't as effective, we need to pull interventions out from our therapy toolbox," she says. "It gives both patients and healthcare professionals another glimmer of hope for recovery."

The MYOMO E100 Neurobotic system is made by Boston-based Myomo, Inc. While Myomo is not providing support for this specific research study, it does provide support for other studies at the Neuromotor Recovery and Rehabilitation Lab. Hermann reports no financial interest in Myomo.

For more information about the MYOMO study, please call (513) 418-5991 or contact Hermann at hillva@ucmail.uc.edu.


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