Stroke damage to brain may not be permanent, study finds

September 27, 2010 By Joey Holleman

Brain functions lost after a stroke might not be gone forever.

After damage to certain areas of the brain in some stroke victims, nearby areas can take over the function of the damaged cells, according to a University of South Carolina study. The findings counter the long-held notion that stroke damage is permanent, much as recent research on recovery of damaged spinal cords has given hope for paralysis victims.

"The things that we thought could not be changed are not true," said Julius Fridriksson, the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Health researcher who led the stroke study, which was reported in the Sept. 15 issue of the . He said he expects major breakthroughs in the next 10 years.

"Even years after a stroke, patients can recover," Fridriksson said. "You still can get better."

The study involved 26 stroke patients with aphasia, a speech disorder caused by damage to the left side of the brain and common among victims.

The patients involved in the study had tests at Palmetto Health Richland in Columbia to measure brain activity before and after undergoing 30 hours of traditional speech therapy. The brain imaging technique has been much improved in the past decade, allowing detailed study of brain cell changes.

Half the patients showed no improvement, but about one-third showed significant improvement. The brain images of those that improved indicated areas near the damaged portions of the brain adapted to cover speech functions.

"The areas that are immediately around the section of the brain that was damaged become more 'plastic,'" Fridriksson said. "This 'plasticity,' so to speak, increases around the and supports recovery."

There were no common denominators among the age, race and sex of those that showed recovery. Like most potentially groundbreaking research, the findings raise as many questions as they answer.

But Fridriksson believes his study "sets the tone" for further research on using MRI to manage strokes better.

The current study will continue for two more years, and Fridriksson is applying for a grant to study the impact of low electrical stimulation on recovery in damaged brain areas. He recently published another study on using MRI to map damage. Other researchers at the university already are studying recovery of motor skills lost after strokes.

2 shares

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Brain training can improve our understanding of speech in noisy places

October 19, 2017
For many people with hearing challenges, trying to follow a conversation in a crowded restaurant or other noisy venue is a major struggle, even with hearing aids. Now researchers reporting in Current Biology on October 19th ...

Investigating the most common genetic contributor to Parkinson's disease

October 19, 2017
LRRK2 gene mutations are the most common genetic cause of Parkinson's disease (PD), but the normal physiological role of this gene in the brain remains unclear. In a paper published in Neuron, Brigham and Women's Hospital ...

Researchers find shifting relationship between flexibility, modularity in the brain

October 19, 2017
A new study by Rice University researchers takes a step toward what they see as key to the advance of neuroscience: a better understanding of the relationship between the brain's flexibility and its modularity.

Brain takes seconds to switch modes during tasks

October 19, 2017
The brain rapidly switches between operational modes in response to tasks and what is replayed can predict how well a task will be completed, according to a new UCL study in rats.

New procedure enables cultivation of human brain sections in the petri dish

October 19, 2017
Researchers at the University of Tübingen have become the first to keep human brain tissue alive outside the body for several weeks. The researchers, headed by Dr. Niklas Schwarz, Dr. Henner Koch and Dr. Thomas Wuttke at ...

Want to control your dreams? Here's how

October 19, 2017
New research at the University of Adelaide has found that a specific combination of techniques will increase people's chances of having lucid dreams, in which the dreamer is aware they're dreaming while it's still happening ...

0 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.