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

the remaining intact portions of this region try to increase activity in the motor pathways to facilitate recovery.

tDCS is an experimental therapy in which a small electrical current is passed to the brain through the scalp and skull. Because previous studies had determined that tDCS could improve motor function if applied to either the damaged or undamaged side of the brain, Schlaug's team hypothesized that applying tDCS to both sides while simultaneously engaging the stroke patient in motor skill relearning activities would further speed the recovery process.

"tDCS works by modulating regional brain activity," explains Schlaug. "In applying this therapy to both hemispheres of the brain, we used one direction of current to increase brain activity on the damaged side, and used the reverse current to inhibit brain activity on the healthy side, thereby rebalancing the interactions of both sides of the brain."

Schlaug and his collaborators studied 20 patients who had suffered an ischemic stroke at least five months prior to the onset of the study. Participants were separated into two groups: Half of the subjects received a 30-minute daily treatment session of electrical stimulation, while the other half received a "sham" placebo treatment designed to mimic electrical stimulation. Both groups of patients concurrently received 60 minutes of occupational and physical therapy. The treatment was repeated daily for five days.

By using sophisticated MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) techniques, the researchers were able to "map" the positions of the stroke lesions in relation to the brain's motor system. "This helped us to very closely match the two patient groups," notes Schlaug. "Not only did the two groups of patients outwardly exhibit similar motor impairments, but we could tell from the MRIs that their lesions were positioned in similar areas of the brain. This novel approach strengthens the results, since no other between-group fac
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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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