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As reported in MIT Tech Review ... When a person suffers a stroke, the interruption of blood flow to the brain can cause lasting loss of function in the limbs. Persistent physical therapy can improve motor control by strengthening connections between the limb and brain. Now, a group at Northeastern University has developed several portable robotic devices that may aid in the rehabilitation process; unlike other rehabilitation devices, these may also let patients continue therapy at home.

... Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the United States; over two-thirds of stroke survivors are left with a disability, according to the National Stroke Association. Repetitive physical therapy that applies force to an affected limb can encourage motor signals to reach the brain and build new pathways of control. These exercises can help not just people recovering from a stroke, but also those suffering from other conditions, such as cerebral palsy or degenerative muscle diseases...

... Several rehabilitation devices currently in use, such as Rocomo's Lokomat machine or the University of Twente's Lopes, were designed to help people walk better--but these systems tend to be bulky and expensive...

... The Northeastern researchers have developed devices for the knee, wrist, pelvis, and ankle that they say are portable and cheap enough to be rented by small rehabilitation or medical centers, and potentially even individual patients. The team kept the devices small by using a substance called electro-rheological fluid, which becomes stickier when an electric current is applied, thus creating a stronger resistive force in the device. The fluid contains particles that form chains when electricity is applied, turning the liquid into more of a gel in a few milliseconds...

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