A robot with a metal "hand" can help stroke patients who have suffered partial paralysis to grasp and pick up objects.
Scientists in the USA studied 15 partially paralysed stroke patients who had suffered strokes up to ten years before starting the treatment.
Seven patients were assigned to a "motor therapy" technique consisting of computer-aided grasping and releasing, while eight others received the more complex "premotor therapy", which involved grasping, releasing and resting in response to visual cues.
Both therapies used a motorised computer-driven robot to open and close the hands of patients, which helped them reduce disability long after a stroke had occurred.
The robot has a metal "hand" that wraps around and guides the thumb and fingers of the patient.
Both forms of therapy produced similar positive results, but six patients who had less disability at the start of the research gained more from the "premotor" technique.
Recovery was tested by a standard scoring system for motor performance called the Fugl-Meyer scale, and the Action Arm Research Arm Test, which measures tasks such as pinching to pick up a small object, gripping a drinking glass, or grasping an object.
The findings were presented at the International Stroke Conference in San Diego, California.