Research at Stanford University School of Medicine, on mice, indicates that stimulation of the brain regions which control movement may help recovery from strokes. They investigated whether brain stimulation aided recovery and discovered that those animals receiving brain stimulation were able to move further and faster. Higher levels of certain chemicals associated with the formation of new connections between brain cells were detected following post-stroke brain stimulation.
The technique, termed optogenetics, involved stimulating the neurons responsible for voluntary movement in the motor cortex. Optogenetics involves the use of an optic fibre to activate cells directly which have been genetically engineered to respond to light. This technique shows promise for helping to understand the mechanisms (and brain regions) at work during stroke recovery. Optogenetic stimulation of other brain regions after a stroke might be equally or more effective.
Note: This is early research; optogenetics cannot be used in humans currently.
Gallagher, J. (2014). Brain stimulation ‘helps in stroke’. London: BBC Health News, August 19th 2014.
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Cheng, MY. Wang, EH. [and] Woodson, WJ. [et al] (2014). Optogenetic neuronal stimulation promotes functional recovery after stroke. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. August 18th 2014. [Epub ahead of print].
Virtual Reality in Stroke Recovery?
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Virtual reality helps stroke patients use weakened limbs. London: BBC Health News, June 9th 2015.