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Innovative Stroke Rehabilitation Technology Is Re-Teaching The Brain

December 15, 2009

Manuel Machado has played the guitar since he was a young boy growing up in the Azores Islands of Portugal. When he moved to the United States in 1984, the band he joined played traditional Portuguese folk music. “Every weekend, he would play somewhere,” says his daughter Maria Munroe, one of his primary caregivers. “He would sometimes come home at 4 am.” That changed on May 3, 2009, when, at the age of 58, her father suffered a stroke and lost the use of his left arm and leg. He spent a month in the hospital, and then two months at Ledgewood Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center in Beverly, Massachusetts, where he was the first patient to benefit from new neuro-robotic technology developed by Myomo (as in “my own motion”) to help stroke patients recover the use of their arms. Myomo (www.myomo.com) technology, with its roots at MIT, enables brain-injured patients to restore use of paralyzed arms by re-teaching movement to the brain. When he returned home, Manuel Machado's rehabilitation with the Myomo arm brace continued under the auspices of Northeast HomeCare, the first organization to bring this therapy into the home. Since using Myomo, Machado has progressed from not being able to more his arm at all, to being able to move his hand from lap to mouth without assistance from a device or person. He can hold his guitar and has even played the piano, and is working to return to playing the guitar. According to Michele Devlin, physical therapist for Northeast HomeCare, his pain is greatly reduced and he can use the affected arm to support some of his body weight. “It’s very hard as a therapist to know how much help to give. But Myomo knows how to give just enough. And the repetitious movement helps to re-establish the neuro-pathways that were damaged by the stroke. I’ve never seen anything like it.”