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Johns Hopkins Pediatric

Game-Changing Study Could Aid Stroke Recovery

May 19, 2015

Stroke recovery isn’t normally associated with fun and games, but researchers at Johns Hopkins’ Departments of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the Department of Neurology are hoping to prove otherwise. Since last fall, they’ve been testing gaming and robotics to facilitate motor recovery in stroke survivors.

Now, in a new clinical trial by Pablo Celnik, interim director of Johns Hopkins Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, in collaboration with John Krakauer, patients with recent stroke will be eligible to participate in a study testing a new video game that allows players to be a virtual dolphin three times a week for four weeks. While the patients play, they perform exercises of the upper extremity and receive noninvasive brain stimulation to enhance the training effects.

Called I Am Dolphin, the game works by having patients control the dolphin’s acrobatics — swimming, leaping, catching fish and navigating water — with the movement of the arm connected to a 3-D robot. Engineers at Johns Hopkins Brain, Learning, Animation and Movement Lab helped to devise the immersive virtual game.

Long a proponent of using high-intensity repetitive learning strategies and noninvasive brain stimulation, Celnik says the goal of the study is to determine whether combining gaming, robotic training and brain stimulation can improve motor recovery of the upper extremity after stroke. The trial, designed by Krakauer, Andreas Luft (University Hospital, Zurich) and Celnik, will involve patients within five weeks of having a stroke to determine if it is possible to improve recovery of the upper extremity function.

The study is part of a multicenter investigation, with Johns Hopkins as the core site. For more information on the study, call 410-502-2438.


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