University of Southern California
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Redesigning Lives Globally
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New Study Charts Exercise for Stroke Patients’ Brains

Jun 12, 2013, by Mike McNulty, in General News

A new study, co-authored by Assistant Professor Lisa Aziz-Zadeh, has found that stroke patients’ brains show strong cortical motor activity when observing others performing physical tasks — a finding that offers new insight into stroke rehabilitation.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a team of researchers from USC monitored the brains of 24 individuals — 12 who had suffered strokes and 12 age-matched people who had not — as they watched others performing actions made using the arm and hand that would be difficult for a person who can no longer use their arm due to stroke — actions such as lifting a pencil or flipping a card.

The researchers found that while the typical brain responded to the visual stimulus with activity in cortical motor regions that are generally activated when we watch others perform actions, in the stroke-affected brain, activity was strongest in these regions of the damaged hemisphere and strongest when stroke patients viewed actions they would have the most difficulty performing.

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