Dr. Prabhakaran and colleagues win ICTR grant, hope to help stroke patients decrease their rehabilitation time

Posted on June 2013

The Department of Radiology would like to congratulate Dr. Vivek Prabhakaran and several members of his team on their recent acquisition of an Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (ICTR) T1 Pilot grant for $50,000 their proposal entitled “A Closed-Loop Neural Activity-triggered Stroke Rehabilitation Device”.

Faculty involved in the project are Justin Williams, Ph.D. and Mitch Tyler, M.S., from biomedical engineering, Dorothy Edwards, Ph.D. from Kinesiology, Justin Sattin, M.D. from Neurology, and Kristin Caldera, D.O. from Rehab Medicine. Other project members include Dr. Veena Nair, graduate students Leo Walton, Brittany Young, Jie Song, and study coordinator Jenny Schwartz.

The ICTR offers annual funding to clinical and translational researchers at UW and throughout the Wisconsin that supports “patient-oriented research that embraces innovations in technology and biomedical devices.”

Prabhakaran and colleagues aim to do just that in researching a new device that could help stroke patients regain upper extremity function (arm, hand, and finger movement and manipulations) through the use of advanced technologies. For Prabhakaran and colleagues, the impact of a stroke on the everyday lives of patients are very real. “[A] majority of individuals who have survived a stroke suffer from some degree of persistent motor deficits and behavioral dysfunction,” they state in their proposal, “about 75% of patients face difficulties in activities of daily living.” Activities of daily living include even simple activities that many take for granted, such as combing one’s hair, brushing their teeth, eating with a spoon.

To help stroke patients regain some of their upper extremity function, Prabhakaran and colleagues are pairing three technologies. One is a Brain-Computer Interface, that senses commands from the motor cortex in real-time and provides visual feedback that allows the patient to monitor and regulate their brain activity. The second is an electrical stimulation system designed to activate the previously non-functional muscle the patient wishes to move. The third is an electrical stimulation system rigged to the tongue, that provides general stimulation. With this three-part system, Prabhakaran and colleagues hope to help stroke patients move their upper extremities on their own more quickly and efficiently as part of their rehabilitation.

Each year about 780,000 people suffer a new or recurrent stroke in the United States, and since approximately 85% of these patients survive, damage from a stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability in the U.S. Prabhakaran and colleagues note, “Approximately 4 million Americans are living with the effects of stroke and millions of family or friends are [their] caregivers.” The group further ascertains that the cost of rehabilitation and follow-up care is enormous and still growing.

With funding from the ICTR, Prabhakaran and colleagues hope to combat this by helping stroke patients regain upper extremity function more quickly and return to their normal lives more easily.