AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 1, 2017

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Stimulating Specific Brain Area Could Help Defrost Arms Frozen by Stroke

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Research recently presented at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting found that by magnetically stimulating a specific part of the brain, stroke victims may be able to recover some function from paralyzed limbs. The study was the first to focus on the transient changes that transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) can affect in patients with severely disabling post-stroke arm impairment. “Little research has looked at this severely impaired population — most is aimed at improving relatively mild movement impairments — and, as a consequence, no validated treatment is available to help those with the most severe disabilities,” said an author of the study. The proof-of-principle study showed a role for control of affected arm movement in the side of the brain not affected by the stroke. Modulating function of this area using TMS altered motor function in a way that was not observed in patients with more mild arm impairment. This suggests that the targeted area may have a special role in recovery for more severely impaired patients. Follow-up studies will assess whether repeated stimulation of the unaffected side of the brain can help to “teach” it to control the impaired arm. “These findings offer promise that these patients may be able to gain function, independence and a better quality of life,” said a lead research of the study, adding that between 30 and 40 percent of the 600,000 strokes that occur annually result in chronic upper arm impairment. To read more about this study, click here.

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