Doctors aim to help stroke patients overcome disability by helping rewire their brains

Researchers at the University of Glasgow are hoping to help victims of stroke to overcome physical disabilities by helping their brains to 'rewire' themselves.

Doctors and scientists from the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences will undertake the world's first in-human trial of vagus in . Stroke can result in the loss of and negatively affect various bodily functions from speech to movement, depending on the location of the stroke.

The study, which will be carried out at the Western Infirmary in Glasgow, will recruit 20 patients who suffered a stroke around six months ago and who have been left with poor arm function as a result.

Each participant will receive three one-hour sessions of intensive physiotherapy each week for six weeks to help improve their .

Half of the group will also receive an implanted Vivistim device, a vagus nerve stimulator, which connects to the vagus nerve in the neck. When they are receiving physiotherapy to help improve their arm, the device will stimulate the nerve.

It is hoped that this will stimulate release of the brain's own chemicals, called neurotransmitters, that will help the brain form new neural connections which might improve participants ability to use their arm.

Lead researcher Dr Jesse Dawson, a Stroke Specialist and Clinical Senior Lecturer in Medicine, said: "When the brain is damaged by stroke, important that control different parts of the body can be damaged which impairs function.

"Evidence from animal studies suggests that vagus nerve stimulation could cause the release of neurotransmitters which help facilitate and help people re-learn how to use their arms after stroke; particularly if stimulation is paired with specific tasks. A slightly different type of vagus nerve stimulation is already successfully used to manage conditions such as depression and epilepsy.

"This study is designed to provide evidence to support whether this is the case after stroke but our primary aim is to assess feasibility of vagus nerve stimulation after stroke.

"It remains to be seen how much we can improve function, but if we can help people perform even small actions again, like being able to hold a cup of tea, it would greatly improve their quality of life."

The study is being sponsored by Dallas-based Microtransponder Inc, a medical device company that has developed the Vivistim device and has received substantial support for their work from the US National Institutes of Health. They are also exploring vagus nerve stimulation for the treatment of tinnitus.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Research shows nerve stimulation can reorganize brain

Jul 19, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- UT Dallas researchers recently demonstrated how nerve stimulation paired with specific experiences, such as movements or sounds, can reorganize the brain. This technology could lead to ...

Recommended for you

New viral tools for mapping brains

23 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—A brain-computer-interphase that is optogenetically-enabled is one of the most fantastic technologies we might envision today. It is likely that its full power could only be realized under ...

Link seen between seizures and migraines in the brain

Oct 30, 2014

Seizures and migraines have always been considered separate physiological events in the brain, but now a team of engineers and neuroscientists looking at the brain from a physics viewpoint discovered a link ...

Neuroscience: Why scratching makes you itch more

Oct 30, 2014

Turns out your mom was right: Scratching an itch only makes it worse. New research from scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis indicates that scratching causes the brain to release ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.