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This device might help stroke survivors regain their motor function

Those who survive a stroke can have their motor function severely impaired, drastically reducing quality of life for those survivors. The good news, however, is that scientists have created a device that might help stroke survivors regain their motor function after the fact.

At the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles, scientists presented a device that uses non-invasive magnetic brain stimulation to enhance brain activity in patients after stroke.

The preliminary study for this device recruited 30 chronic ischemic stroke survivors, at least three months post-stroke and with weakness on one side of their body. The cohort was randomly split into two groups, one receiving sham treatment and the other receiving active transcranial magnetic brain stimulation. Twenty sessions, lasting 40 minutes each, were conducted over four weeks.

As well as proving the treatment was safe, with no adverse responses noted, MRI measurements revealed the active group displayed nearly nine times greater brain activity near injured brain regions, compared to the group receiving the sham treatment.

As the study was small and preliminary it was not tasked with evaluating whether the brain stimulation device generates tangible clinical improvements in motor function. However, motor function improvements could be detected in functional MRI data measuring brain activity relating to gait velocity, grip strength, and other arm motor functions.

Mitchell Elkind, president of the American Heart Association and professor of neurology and epidemiology at Columbia University New York, calls the study “exciting,” and although it is still in its early stages, the simplicity of the device makes it easy to deploy in the homes of patients recovering from a stroke.

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