New Device Taps Brain Signals to Help Stroke Patients Regain Hand Function

The IpsiHand is a recently authorized device that helps stroke patients to regain the use of a disabled hand by rewiring the connection with the unaffected side of the patient’s brain. One patient who has tried the device suffered a stroke in 2015 that left most of his left side paralyzed. He spent six months in rehabilitation relearning to walk, but the finer motor skills were harder. Activities like buttoning his shirt were difficult, and he missed being able to fish, one of his favorite hobbies. Over months of continued rehabilitation, he became frustrated, especially when his therapist told him that his hand likely wouldn’t progress much further.

Dr. Eric Leuthardt, a brain surgeon, had heard stories about how stroke patients could still remember using their hands but were unable to actually make their hands function as they once did. While the left side of the brain often controls the right side of the body, and vice versa, some controls reside on the same side of the brain for the limbs. By connecting the device to the same side of the brain, researchers were able to provide the necessary signals to restore the use of that hand. The first test was with a man who learned over six weeks to pick up a marble and to place it on a shelf. Tests continued over 12 weeks with 40 participants.

The device includes a headset that works with the brain signals, a tablet, and a robotic exoskeleton on the affected hand and wrist. Since this is all that it required, people can use it at home. It has helped patients to continue to improve beyond what they could do in therapy. After the first 90 days subsequent to a stroke, most patients are considered as rehabilitated as they can be, and they aren’t likely to improve further, no matter how much time they spend in rehabilitation. IpsiHand is meant to help them continue to improve, as seen with the patient who loved to fish. When traditional rehabilitation stopped working, the device helped him to be able to finally resume his favorite hobby.

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