Mechanistic Studies

Brain Plasticity and Arm Use

Dr. Eng’s team has previously shown that many people with stroke do not use their hand and arm in everyday activities, despite having the ability to do so. Does everyday use of the arm affect the re-organization and activation of the brain? Dr. Eng and her graduate student Kristen Kokotilo led this study which showed that individuals who use their stroke-affected arm less (measured by wrist-watch accelerometers over a week) tend to show higher levels of activation of the non-affected motor cortex (i.e., compensatory activation). Dr. Eng hopes that their future studies can determine the amount and types of movement that most effectively influence brain reorganization.

Activity during Rehabilitation

How much activity do stroke patients experience during inpatient stroke rehabilitation? Dr. Eng and her post-doctoral fellow Debbie Rand showed that the amount of arm and leg activity is very low during stroke rehabilitation (either in structured therapy or during the rest of the day). The amount of activity did not increase substantially over the 4 weeks from admission to discharge. This study led to the development of the GRASP program to increase arm activity.