Stroke Rehab: 2 Sides Better Than 1
Although strokes typically affect only one side of the body, rehabilitation appears to work best when both sides of the body are engaged. A study done by Ken Takitama of the University of Tokyo and Masato Okada of the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Wako, Japan, found that the two-sided approach was especially important in getting functioning back in a weakened arm and hand. Recovery of movement in the upper limb usually lags behind that of the leg and foot.
The authors wrote that their study "suggests that bimanual movement facilitates the reorganization of a damaged motor cortex because this movement induces rotations in the preferred directions (PDs) of motor cortex neurons . . . Although previous computational studies investigated the unimanual movements of stroke patients, individuals often move their arms bimanually. Bimanual movement is effective for the recovery of paretic [partially paralyzed] arm movement . . . Rotations of the encoding PDs facilitate cortical reorganization."
Also important to note, several other studies have shown that, as with any motor skill, practice makes perfect when it comes to stroke rehabilitation. Patients who diligently repeat therapeutic movements tend to recover more movement than those who are not as hard-working.