Stroke robot therapy

FRESNO, Calif.

Though he's only 23, Spencer Telligman has made his mark as an artist.

"You're putting paint on canvas and it feels great, it's just awesome," Spencer elligman told Action News.

Last January, a stroke took away the use of his right hand, the one he uses to paint.

"It kinda killed it," Spencer said. "I've been worrying since, since it happened that I wouldn't be able to do anything anymore."

A unique clinical trial is restoring Spencer's confidence, and much more. Patients do repetitive exercises and play games wearing a motorized robotic arm to help retrain their brain, and make their own arms function.

"Let's say the patient can do 10%, then the robot will do 90% and as you get better if you can do 50%, the robot will do 50%," Dr. Andrew Butler, Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at Emory University, explained.

There's one more key element to this trial, a drug that helps the brain re-learn.

"Learning is not only the aspects of the motor movement or how you move your hand but it's also remembering those things from day to day. So, the drug targets that system, the learning and memory system," Dr. Butler said.

After a lot of hard work, Spencer's arm function is improving.

"I'm totally amazed everyday by the things he's capable of doing," Didi Heagerty, Spencer's mom, told Action News.

Today he started drawing again.

"It's not at the level it used to be at but like, I can draw. I feel like in the future like I can do anything," Spencer said.

A portrait of a young artist who's getting his life back, one day at a time.

The robotic arm used in the Emory university study electronically measures strength and range of motion to monitor patients' progress on a daily basis. Studies in Taiwan have shown that robot-assisted therapy has measurable benefits for patients whose arms are weakened by a stroke.

Dr. Andrew Butler
Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine
Emory University

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