People who suffer a stroke will usually be left with mild to severe paralysis of one limb such as a leg and ankle, or an arm and wrist, and scientists are now trying to find a way to help them recover.
The transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) – which is essentially a method that stimulates small brain regions through pulses of magnetic energy – may be used to identify which of the brain regions in stroke patients remained undamaged and could help move the paralysed arm, according to the researchers.
Although the transcranial magnetic stimulation cannot cure paralysis it may help train the brain to use the undamaged areas to move the paralysed arm.
In the study – that was presented October 20 at the meeting of the Society of Neuroscience in Chicago – the researchers analysed the effects of the transcranial magnetic stimulation on 30 patients.
Of all the participants in the study, 50 percent had mild impairment in arm movement, while the other 50 percent suffered from severe paralysis of the arm. The patients were shown a ‘go’ signal and were asked to reach for an object. At the same time, the researchers administered magnetic stimulation to the patients’ dorsal premotor cortex, a brain region that had not been affected by the stroke.
The results showed that the transcranial magnetic stimulation probe proved more efficient in the case of severely impaired patients, than in the case of the patients from the mildly impaired group. Harrington says that the brains of those who suffer from sever impairment may have latent pathways that are triggered by the probes, while those with mild impairment are already able to move their arms a little using the brain regions near the damaged areas.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention stated that in the United States, about 130,000 Americans die from a stroke each year. Most of the strokes are ischemic (caused by a cloth in blood vessels), while 15 percent of them are haemorrhagic (burst in a blood vessel), the latter causing the most deaths – about 40 percent.
The researchers of the new study are Rachael Harrington, a Ph.D. student at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and Michelle Harris-Love, director of the Mechanisms of Therapeutic Rehabilitation Laboratory at the MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital and an associate professor at George Mason University in Washington, D.C.
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