Robotics and virtual reality games help N.J. stroke victims recover

Added on :  5-Feb-2015

This advance media coverage was written and produced by Andre Malok and was distributed by on February 5, 2015.

It was early in the morning one day last summer when Michael Aliprantis' life was changed forever.

"I was sitting at the kitchen table, and my arm just fell off the table." Although he wasn't certain at the time, Aliprantis had just suffered a stroke, an interruption of blood flow to the brain. An MRI taken later that day at St. Joseph's Hospital in Paterson would confirm it. 

Aliprantis, a 65 year old truck driver from Little Falls was fortunate, he survived. He was also fortunate to begin his rehabilitation at St. Joseph's Wayne Hospital. Key to his rehab is a trial of a Robotics and Virtual Rehabilitation Research Study currently underway in the hospital's Acute Rehabilitation Unit. The unit is working with Rutgers University and New Jersey Institute of Technology to learn how stroke patients can improve recovery. The study uses virtual reality games and robotics in their rehabilitation.

The study is designed to help restore body function quicker than traditional rehabilitation. Patients participating are strapped into robotic apparatus and are given a variety of tasks to perform at varying levels of difficulty. With the research and equipment being used in this study, the team is better able to localize different areas of disfunction and determine the impact it has on the patient. "We have 16 simulations available" said Gerard Fluet, assistant professor at the Department of Rehabilitation and Movement Science Rutgers University. "We choose the area where the patient needs the most work on.

"We're lucky to partner with St. Josephs," said Fluet. "They were comfortable doing experimental rehabilitation interventions days after the stroke." Key to the success of the patients is getting them to begin this form of rehab soon after their strokes when the brain is hard at work trying to re-wire and figure out how to adapt. "The brain is already ahead of us" says Dr. Supriya Massood, Medical Director of the Acute Rehabilitation Unit at St. Josephs Wayne Hospital. "And we need to get ahead of that."



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