A new nerve tingler may reverse paralysis caused by stroke, getting victims back on the move

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A new nerve tingler may reverse paralysis caused by stroke, getting victims back on the move  Empty A new nerve tingler may reverse paralysis caused by stroke, getting victims back on the move

Post  wyatt1 on Thu Sep 26, 2013 9:06 pm

A tiny box implanted in the chest could help reverse paralysis caused by a stroke. The matchbox-sized device is designed to increase movement by stimulating a nerve that carries messages to and from the brain.

A trial is now underway at the Western Infirmary in Glasgow to see if using the implant to stimulate the vagus nerve - which is nearly 2ft long and passes right through the upper body - will reverse paralysis.

It's thought that zapping the vagus nerve can trigger a release of chemicals in the brain that promote 'neuroplasticity'.
Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to set up new pathways through which messages can be sent if it has suffered an injury, such as a stroke.

The trial, which is the first of its kind, began earlier this year and will recruit 20 patients who have little or no movement in one arm as a result of a stroke.

Half will be fitted with the new implant and given three hours a week of rehabilitation exercises, during which time the implant will be switched on using an external remote control.

The implant will be fitted under general anaesthetic beneath the collar bone. The remainder of the patients will just do the exercises.

Each patient will be assessed after six weeks of therapy to measure improvements in movement and grip.

Having a stroke leads to brain cells becoming starved of oxygen, either due to a blood clot or bleed in the brain. Strokes kill about 200 people every day and leave thousands more disabled.

Six months after a stroke about 50 per cent of survivors need help with everyday tasks such as eating, dressing and going to the loo. 

For many years, doctors have known that intensive physiotherapy can help the brain 're-learn' how to move paralysed limbs.

Although brain cells cannot regenerate once they have been damaged or destroyed, the brain can be trained to find new ways of getting messages to the arms and legs. It does this by recruiting other undamaged nerve cells to set up new pathways, through which instructions can be passed.

Although this physiotherapy can be effective, it can take months of intensive exercises before significant results are seen and many patients struggle with the constant effort.

It's hoped the chest implant could help. 

Dr Peter Coleman, deputy director of research at the Stroke Association said: 'Around 70 per cent of stroke survivors experience difficulty with arm movement. Little is known about how direct stimulation of nerves can help patients 're-learn' arm movement, so we look forward to seeing the results of this trial.'

Meanwhile, breathing in huge amounts of oxygen could repair brain cells years after a stroke has happened. 

New research shows hyperbaric oxygen therapy - which involves sitting in an oxygen chamber and is used to treat deep-sea divers with decompression sickness - can restore some lost brain function up to three years after a stroke has occurred.

In a study published in the online medical journal PLoS One, scientists at Tel Aviv University treated 74 patients who had all been hit by strokes between six months and three years prior to the study.

Patients' brains were scanned before and after the experiment and they were also assessed using the National Institute of Health Stroke Scale - a 'scoring' system for measuring stroke damage.

The results revealed a marked improvement in brain cell activity after the therapy. Patients also experienced reversal of paralysis, increased sensation and improved language skills.

How exactly the therapy works is unknown, but it's thought that the high oxygen levels may stimulate the release of brain chemicals that help cells 're-route'.

'The use of oxygen therapy is certainly an interesting area of research and we look forward to the results of further studies,' said Dr Peter Coleman.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2430250/New-nerve-tingler-stroke-victims-move.html#ixzz2g1VYWXmr 
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