German researchers have discovered that paralysed stroke victims could recover significant mobility after receiving electric current to their brains
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig, the University Medical Centre Halle, and the Charite-Universitaetsmedizin in Germany’s capital, Berlin, revealed that such non-invasive brain stimulation could significantly improve patients’ impaired movement.
According to the researchers, the therapy showed notable effects after a single application and could be individually adjusted for different patients for their optimal benefit.
Research group leader Bernhard Sehm revealed that arm paralysis, which occurs due to physiological and structural post-stroke brain changes, is one of the most frequent consequences of brain damage.
Sehm – also a senior physician at the University Clinic and Polyclinic for Neurology at the University Medical Centre Halle – told Newsflash: “The basis of these changes are both reparative brain processes and behavioural patterns of everyday activities after the stroke.”
He added: “With the help of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), one can influence these changes in the brain. The currents penetrate the brain tissue, where they have a local excitatory or inhibitory effect.”
The study’s first author, Toni Muffel of the Charite-Universitaetsmedizin in Berlin, said: “Our study involved 24 patients who were very limited in their mobility due to the stroke. In the lab we have a robotic system that can be individually adapted to each patient, a kind of exoskeleton that enables them to move their paralysed arm and perform tasks in a virtual environment.”
Muffel who revealed that the patients’ scalps were stimulated through electrodes while they interacted with the virtual objects added: “In parallel, we measured how well, or how poorly, the brain stimulation helped the participants to perform the tasks.”
Sehm reported that brain stimulation had a noteworthy effect on the brain areas affected by the stroke.
He explained: “Our robotic system allows us to measure various motor functions simultaneously and thus gain a comprehensive picture of the stimulation effects. The data show that sensorimotor functions of the paralysed arm are clearly influenced by tDCS.”
The group leader concluded: “However, we could not identify a uniform beneficial pattern across different patients. Instead, the changes in the brain areas varied depending on the task and the electrode placement.
“This means that in the future, patients will need to be closely examined before brain stimulation treatment in order to develop a targeted and individualised approach to their deficits. This simple but promising method of brain stimulation will then have a future in patient care.”
The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal ‘Brain Stimulation’ in March 2022.
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Story By: Georgina Jadikovska, Sub-Editor: William McGee, Agency: Newsflash
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