A new device geared towards stroke patient recovery could quickly be making it’s way on the market in the near future. With thousands of people struggling to recover from strokes and other brain traumas every day, this new technology could help patients regain mobility in their limbs. Neuroscientists at Newcastle University have developed the device, the size of a mobile phone, which delivers a series of small electrical shocks followed by an audible click to strengthen the brain and spinal connections.
Following successful work in primates and healthy human subjects, the Newcastle University team are now working with colleagues at the prestigious Institute of Neurosciences, Kolkata, India, to start the clinical trial. Involving 150 stroke patients, the aim of the study is to see whether it leads to improved hand and arm control for stroke patient recovery.
Stroke Patient Recovery – What Does It Do?
The device is designed to strengthen the neural pathways by making audible clicks and small electric shocks that will essentially jump-start the neurons into sending signals back to the injured area. Partial paralysis of the arms, typically on just one side, is common after stroke, and can affect someone’s ability to wash, dress, or feed themselves. Only about 15% of stroke patients spontaneously recover the use of their hand and arm, with many people left facing the rest of their lives with a severe level of disability.
In a paper written by Stuart Baker, Professor of Movement Neuroscience at Newcastle University, Baker tried this technique on primates and found that the combination of clicks and electric shocks had the potential to change the brains connections. This means that many physical therapists could possibly have another tool to use in stroke patient recovery.
How It Works
In the paper they report how they use a click in a headphone with an electric shock to a muscle to induce the changes in connections that either strengthen or weaken reflexes depending on the sequence selected. They demonstrated this by wearing the portable electronic device for seven hours strengthened the signal pathway in more than half of the subjects. The report later goes into detail as to how these pathways are being strengthened, essentially, the neural pathways are being stimulated by the audible noise as well as the electric shock to strengthen these pathways. Think of these neurons as tiny muscles, and Baker’s new device is working out these tiny muscles to strengthen its ability to transfer signals.
Many physical therapists will anxiously await these results in hopes of having yet another tool to use in stroke patient recovery.