Researchers claim to have discovered a method to help survivors gain control of their arms and hands. Heather Rendulic, 22, lost functional use of her left hand after a series of strokes in 2012. A decade later, she can use a fork and knife again, thanks to electrodes implanted in her neck.
In their lifetime, one in every four people will have a stroke, a condition in which the blood supply of a portion of the brain is cut off. Those who survive are frequently left with long-term issues such as muscle weakness or paralysis, with common difficulties with arm and hand movements.
These can significantly impact those affected. However, regain the ability to perform daily activities such as eating, writing, or dressing. Researchers claim to have discovered a method to restore such movements by stimulating nerve cells within the spinal cord.
“The most difficult aspect of my condition is living one-handed in a two-handed world,” Rendulic said. “When the [electrode] stimulation is turned on, I feel like I have control of my arm and hand for the first time in over nine years.”
According to researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, a stroke can disrupt connections between brain and spinal cord regions that control arm and hand movements.
While some brain signals are still transmitted, they cannot activate the motor neurons that control muscle movement. “From the patient’s perspective, it’s easier to move the arm again while it responds to what they intend it to do. “However, without stimulation and after the stroke, even simple tasks require much effort,” Weber explained.
Dr. Elvira Pirondini, the study’s author, said the technology leveraged the natural mechanisms for movement, meaning training is unnecessary for simple tasks. “Immediately from day one, the subject could already attempt some movement,” she concluded.