Effect of electrical stimulation therapy on upper extremity functional recovery and cerebral cortical changes in patients with chronic hemiplegia

Biomed Res. 2012 Apr;33(2):89-96. doi: 10.2220/biomedres.33.89.


Hemiplegia is a common sequel of stroke and assisted living care is needed in many cases. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of using surface electrode stimulation device in rehabilitation, in terms of functional improvement in upper limb and the changes in brain activation related to central nervous system reconstruction. Five patients with chronic hemiplegia received electrical stimulation therapy using the orthosis-type surface electrode stimulation device for 12 weeks. Training time was 30 min/day for the first weeks, and increased 30 min/day in every 4 weeks. Upper limb outcome measures included Brunnstrom stage, range of motion, Fugl-Meyer assessment and manual function test. Brain activation was measured using functional MRI. After therapy with therapeutic electrical stimulation (TES) for 12 weeks upper limb function improved in all cases. The results of brain activation showed two patterns. In the first, the stimulation produced an activity in the bilateral somatosensory cortices (SMC), which was seen to continue over time. The second, activation was bilateral and extensive before stimulation, but localized to the SMC after intervention. Treatment with TES using an orthosis-type electrode stimulation device improves upper limb function in chronic hemiplegia patients. The present findings suggest that there are not only efferent but also afferent effects that may promote central nervous system remodeling.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Arm / physiopathology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy*
  • Female
  • Hemiplegia / physiopathology
  • Hemiplegia / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recovery of Function
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome