Art-based Rehabilitation Therapy (ART) for Sensorimotor Recovery Post-stroke: A Pilot Study

NeuroscienceRehabilitation Science
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Post stroke, ~85 of survivors present with upper limb (UL) contralateral hemiparesis (Dobkin, 2003). There has been a sufficient amount of literature that suggests that intense rehabilitation is beneficial to patient functional recovery, but at best, individuals receive only one hour of therapy per day, with only a portion of this time focused on the arm and hand. Furthermore, therapy commonly includes less than a 100 actual movements per session (Lang et al., 2007; Waddell et al., 2014). This low number of repetitions is at odds with studies on motor learning where many thousands of volitional motor actions are required to regain good motor skills. 

A potential strategy to increase motor repetitions is Art-based Rehabilitation Therapy (ART), a novel therapeutic intervention that has been introduced at Providence Care Hospital (PCH). The ART program acts as an adjunct to conventional therapies and works to promote upper limb sensorimotor recovery by engaging participants in task-directed, frequent, challenging activities, while augmenting overall the intensity of UL therapy. This pilot program includes a series of art lessons that begins with basic motor skills needed to draw lines and then progresses to drawing more complex objects.

We recruited over 30 individuals from PCH to assess the feasibility and potential benefits of art therapy. Feasibility was assessed by several measures (i.e. ART program completion rate, participant feedback). Secondly, we quantified the amount of movement generated during Art Therapy sessions using accelerometers on a subset of participants. sensorimotor and cognitive functions were assessed using the Kinarm robot, as well as traditional clinical measures of motor impairment (Chedoke-McMaster Stroke Assessment, Functional Independence Measure). Preliminary results suggest that ART is an enjoyable and feasible UL therapy capable of augmenting upper limb therapy activity.


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