BACKGROUNDRobotically facilitated therapeutic activities, performed in virtual environments have emerged as one approach to upper extremity rehabilitation after stroke. Body function level improvements have been demonstrated for robotically facilitated training of the arm. A smaller group of studies have demonstrated modest activity level improvements by training the hand or by integrated training of the hand and arm. The purpose of this study was to compare a training program of complex hand and finger tasks without arm movement paired with a separate set of reaching activities performed without hand movement, to training the entire upper extremity simultaneously, utilizing integrated activities.METHODSForty individuals with chronic stroke recruited in the community, participated in a randomized, blinded, controlled trial of two interventions. Subjects were required to have residual hand function for inclusion. The first, hand and arm separate (HAS) training (n=21), included activities controlled by finger movement only, and activities controlled by arm movement only, the second, hand and arm together (HAT) training (n=20) used simulations controlled by a simultaneous use of arm and fingers.RESULTSNo adverse reactions occurred. The entire sample demonstrated mean improvements in Wolf Motor Function Test scores (21%) and Jebsen Test of Hand Function scores (15%), with large effect sizes (partial r2=.81 and r2=.67, respectively). There were no differences in improvement between HAS and HAT training immediately after the study. Subjects in the HAT group retained Wolf Motor Function Test gains better than in the HAS group measured three months after the therapy but the size of this interaction effect was small (partial r2=.17).CONCLUSIONSShort term changes in upper extremity motor function were comparable when training the upper extremity with integrated activities or a balanced program of isolated activities. Further study of the retention period is indicated.TRIAL REGISTRATIONNCT01072461.