Electrical stimulation boosts stroke recovery

Sending tiny electric pulses to a part of the brain controlling motor function helps ischemic stroke survivors regain partial use of a weakened hand, new Oregon Health & Science University research shows.

But coupling the technique known as cortical stimulation with aggressive rehabilitation is key to reversing the impairment, doctors say.

"It's the coolest thing in stroke I've seen in a long time," said Helmi Lutsep, M.D., associate professor of neurology and associate director of the Oregon Stroke Center, OHSU School of Medicine.

In a study examining the safety of cortical stimulation therapy, Lutsep and co-investigators found that stroke patients who received stimulation with rehabilitation improved "significantly" better in hand mobility and strength tests than people undergoing rehabilitation alone.

"Everybody improved to some degree, because even in the subjects who received some rehabilitation, we did see improvement," Lutsep said. "What the data suggested is those who received the (stimulation) implant improved more."

The study was published this month in the journal Neurosurgery. Lutsep's co-investigators were Jeffrey A. Brown, M.D., of Wayne State University, Detroit, Martin Weinand, M.D., of the University of Arizona, Tucson, and Steven C. Cramer, M.D., of the University of California, Irvine.

Ischemic stroke occurs when a clot in a blood vessel blocks the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain. The result can be major weakness on one side of the body, a condition called hemiparesis, which is typically treated with rehabilitation. According to the American Stroke Association, 88 percent of the estimated 700,000 strokes that occur each year are ischemic.

In cortical stimulation, a pacemaker-like device called an external pulse generator sends a low current through a wire to an electrode placed surgically atop the dura, the fibrous membrane covering the brain. The electrode rests above the motor cort

Contact: Jonathan Modie
Oregon Health & Science University

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