Stroke rehab study using nerve stimulation to rewire patient's brain
Dr. Marcie Bockbrader is leading the study with the Vivistim Vagus Nerve Stimulator. She says the nerve stimulation is like turning on a switch, making the patient's brain more receptive to therapy.
After surviving a stroke, Ken Meeks continues to recover, but some tasks still take longer than he'd like.
Ken Meeks says, "Nearly everything you do is a two handed thing. You don't realize it."
Loss of motor function is a common side effect, one that can take years to recover. That is why experts at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are testing a new approach to stroke therapy using an implanted device to help rewire circuits in the brain.
Dr. Marcie Bockbrader says, "The idea is to combine this brain pacing with normal rehabilitation therapies and see if patients who've been through all of the other usual therapies after a stroke can get even better."
Dr. Bockbrader is leading the study with the Vivistim Vagus Nerve Stimulator. She says the nerve stimulation is like turning on a switch, making the patient's brain more receptive to therapy.
Dr. Bockbrader says, "What we're trying to do with this is rewire the brain so that it will allow people to use their bodies the way they used to."
The novel therapy is used in conjunction with traditional rehab. When an exercise is performed correctly, the therapist presses a button, directing the device to stimulate the vagus nerve, which carries information for motor functions within the body. This signals the brain to store that movement to memory. The patients are evaluated in comparison to their scores before therapy.
Because this is a clinical trial, Ken's not sure if he's actually getting the stimulation or not, but as far as he's concerned, there is no such thing as too much therapy.
Ken says, "I truly believe, I still believe that it will be a help."
The clinical trial will follow patients for at least a year to study their improvement. Researchers are hoping that what they learn will not only improve the lives of patients who have had a stroke, but that their findings could also help those who have suffered spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries.