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Noninvasive brain stimulation helps improve motor function in stroke patients
Date:11/10/2010

BOSTON -- A noninvasive electric stimulation technique administered to both sides of the brain can help stroke patients who have lost motor skills in their hands and arms, according to a new study led by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC).

Described in today's Online Issue of the journal Neurology, the findings showed that stroke patients who received bihemispheric transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) coupled with a regimen of physical and occupational therapy had a three-fold greater improvement in motor function compared with patients who received only physical/occupational rehabilitation and a placebo form of stimulation.

"We think that the key to this therapy's success in improving stroke patients' motor function is based on its ability to affect the brain activity on both the stroke-affected side of the brain and the healthy side of the brain as patients work to re-learn lost motor skills," says senior author Gottfried Schlaug, MD, PhD, the Director of the Stroke Service in BIDMC's Department of Neurology and Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School.

In the brain of a healthy individual, the left and right sides of the motor cortex work in tandem, inhibiting one another as needed in order to successfully carry out such one-sided movements as writing or teeth-brushing. But, explains lead author Robert Lindenberg, MD, an HMS Instructor of Neurology at BIDMC, when a person suffers a stroke (as might happen when an artery to the brain is blocked by a blood clot or atherosclerotic deposit) the interaction between the two sides of the brain involved in motor skills changes.

"As a result," he explains, "the motor region on the unaffected side of the brain begins to exert an unbalanced effect onto the motor region of the brain's damaged side." And, as Schlaug and Lindenberg further explain, this leads to an increased inhibition of the stroke-damaged motor region, as
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Contact: Bonnie Prescott
bprescot@bidmc.harvard.edu
617-667-7306
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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