The Center for Rehabilitation Medicine in the Emory University School of Medicine is currently recruiting participants for a study combining mental imagery and physical rehabilitation therapy to help improve function of the hand and arm of patients suffering from a recent stroke.
According to the study's principal investigator, Andrew Butler, PhD, MPT, the study is designed to determine if mental imagery therapy combined with physical rehabilitation leads to improvement in upper limb functional ability in patients who have suffered a stroke--compared to those who are receiving therapy or mental imagery alone.
Stroke survivors often have temporary hemiparesis, where the survivor experiences weakened upper extremity function on one side of their body.
"Many patients compensate for this by using their unaffected side which reinforces the nonuse of their limb," says Dr. Butler. "The continued lack of use of the weak limb is known as the learned-non-use concept and is thought to contribute to possible degeneration of processes within the central nervous system."
Dr. Butler says his team hopes to determine whether or not the brain changes following physical rehabilitation therapy, mental imagery therapy or the combination. In addition, they will assess whether the changes correlates with motor recovery, and then identify possible mechanisms underlying the change.
For two consecutive weeks, participants will attend therapy sessions five days a week for up to six hours per day. During therapy, participants will practice daily activities under the guidance of a rehabilitation expert. Immediately after the two-week therapy session, participants will complete post-intervention testing. One group will receive physical rehabilitation therapy and mental imagery therapy, while another group will receive mental imagery therapy alone. The group receiving mental imagery alone will be eligible for physical rehabilitation after completion of all study evaluations.
The mental imagery therapy involves listening to a tape recording which describes using the weaker arm for activities of daily living. Each mental imagery session lasts about 30 minutes and is repeated three times per day. After the two-week therapy session and post training evaluation, participants will return to the research site for follow-up testing four months later.
"As part of this study, participants will receive a brain scan before and after the two-week therapy using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)," says Dr. Butler. "This technique enables researchers to examine the structure of the brain while performing certain behaviors. This may help us understand how the brain changes as a patient recovers from a stroke."
Participants must be at least 18 years old and have a history of one stroke within three-to-12 months prior to entering the study. Additionally, they must:
Be able to actively lift the hand from a drooped position and raise the thumb and at least two fingers. Be able to independently and safely transfer to the toilet, stand-up and maintain balance for two minutes with arm support. Not be participating in another experiment or in a formal physical rehabilitation program.
For more information, or to enroll in the study, please call (404) 712-1928.