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The sensory side of post-stroke motor rehabilitation.
Contemporary strategies to promote motor recovery following stroke focus on repetitive voluntary movements. Although successful movement relies on efficient sensorimotor integration, functional outcomes often bias motor therapy toward motor-related impairments such as weakness, spasticity and synergies; sensory therapy and reintegration is implied, but seldom targeted. However, the planning and execution of voluntary movement requires that the brain extracts sensory information regarding body position and predicts future positions, by integrating a variety of sensory inputs with ongoing and planned motor activity. Neurological patients who have lost one or more of their senses may show profoundly affected motor functions, even if muscle strength remains unaffected. Following stroke, motor recovery can be dictated by the degree of sensory disruption. Consequently, a thorough account of sensory function might be both prognostic and prescriptive in neurorehabilitation. This review outlines the key sensory components of human voluntary movement, describes how sensory disruption can influence prognosis and expected outcomes in stroke patients, reports on current sensory-based approaches in post-stroke motor rehabilitation, and makes recommendations for optimizing rehabilitation programs based on sensory stimulation.