CHICAGO (CBS) — It can take months or years for stroke patients to recover and only a small fraction regain normal use of their hands and arms, but a breakthrough here in Chicago could change all that.

In this Original Report, CBS 2’s Susanna Song shows us how it works.

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Darryl Holmes suffered a stroke nearly five years ago debilitating the left side of his body.

“There were detailed things I could not do, tying a tie, tying shoe laces, bathing myself,” said Holmes.

For six weeks he worked with researchers and doctors at the Rehab Institute of Chicago.

Without being invasive, Dr. Lynn Rogers can stimulate area of his brain. Through a new navigation system she can find the exact spots to target and see the images in real time.

“What it can do is if we do repeated stimulation, it can change how that brain fires, so over the course of time it changes how responsive that area is,” said Dr. Rogers.

The point is to stimulate the healthy side of his brain.

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“We can lower the excitability of that uninjured side, get rid of the noise,” said Dr. Richard Harvey, Director of Stroke Rehab.

“Quieting down the healthy side and allowing injured side to step up, speak up, and do its job,” said Dr. Rogers.

The stimulation balances the brain which helps make traditional therapy more effective and longer lasting.

“One is that we can get better outcomes, so they can do more and do more faster,” said Dr. Rogers.

Holmes credits the combined therapy for now being able to tie a tie and drive a car.

Researchers say it works when you add 15 minutes of stimulation to the one hour of therapy, three times a week for six weeks.

Patients were able to maintain the improvements six months later even without consistent therapy.

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The therapy has yet to be FDA approved.