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Open Access Review

Animal models of post-ischemic forced use rehabilitation: methods, considerations, and limitations

Jessica M Livingston-Thomas and R Andrew Tasker*

Author Affiliations

Department of Biomedical Sciences University of Prince Edward Island, 550 University Avenue, Charlottetown, PEI C1A4P3, Canada

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Experimental & Translational Stroke Medicine 2013, 5:2  doi:10.1186/2040-7378-5-2

Published: 23 January 2013

Abstract

Many survivors of stroke experience arm impairments, which can severely impact their quality of life. Forcing use of the impaired arm appears to improve functional recovery in post-stroke hemiplegic patients, however the mechanisms underlying improved recovery remain unclear. Animal models of post-stroke rehabilitation could prove critical to investigating such mechanisms, however modeling forced use in animals has proven challenging. Potential problems associated with reported experimental models include variability between stroke methods, rehabilitation paradigms, and reported outcome measures. Herein, we provide an overview of commonly used stroke models, including advantages and disadvantages of each with respect to studying rehabilitation. We then review various forced use rehabilitation paradigms, and highlight potential difficulties and translational problems. Lastly, we discuss the variety of functional outcome measures described by experimental researchers. To conclude, we outline ongoing challenges faced by researchers, and the importance of translational communication. Many stroke patients rely critically on rehabilitation of post-stroke impairments, and continued effort toward progression of rehabilitative techniques is warranted to ensure best possible treatment of the devastating effects of stroke.