MedPage reports, “8 weeks of hand-grip exercises, begun more than 6 months after a stroke, resulted in significantly increased activity in the cortex — the area of the brain that corresponds with hand use.”

Dr. Aria Tzika from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston presented her findings during the Radiological Society of North America meeting.

First, the details.

  • Records from 60 older men who had a stroke more than 6 months earlier with hemiparesis (partial paralysis of one side of the body) affecting the right hand were reviewed.
  • With the weak hand, patients squeezed a plastic ball an hour a day, 3 days a week, for 8 weeks.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans were done before, during, at completion of training, and a month after training stopped.
  • During the scans, participants squeezed a robotic device to monitor brain activity.

And, the results.

  • Patients had significantly greater activity in the cortex after 8 weeks of training.
    • The cerebral cortex is involved in memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought, language, and consciousness.
  • A month after they stopped training, the active area was still significantly larger than before training.

The bottom line?
The results suggest that the brain remains malleable longer after stroke than previously thought.

Dr. Tzika believes “The critical period of time [for rehab] is the first 3 to 6 months after stroke.” However, “now we see that the brain is adaptable to rehabilitation [for longer periods].”

12/29/08 20:41 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.