How Newcastle scientists could help transform treatment for stroke victims

How Newcastle scientists could help transform treatment for stroke victims

A new electronic device developed by Newcastle scientists is offering new hope for stroke patients in regaining movement and control of their hands. The small bit of kit, which is being tested in medical trials, delivers a series of small electrical shocks followed by an audible click to strengthen brain and spinal connections. Developed by neuroscientists at Newcastle University, it is thought this could revolutionise treatment for patients by providing a wearable solution to the effects of stroke. Partial paralysis of the arms, typically on just one side, is common after stroke, and can affect someone’s ability to wash, dress or feed themselves. Only about 15% of stroke patients spontaneously recover the use of their hand and arm, with many people left facing the rest of their lives with a severe level of disability. Stroke patient and Newcastle student Chris Blower Stuart Baker, professor of movement neuroscience at Newcastle University who has led the work said: “We were astonished to find that a small electric shock and the sound of a click had the potential to change the brain’s connections. However, our previous research in primates changed our thinking about how we could activate these pathways, leading to our study in humans. “We have developed a miniaturised device which delivers an audible click followed by a weak electric shock to the arm muscle to strengthen the brain’s connections. This means the stroke patients in the trial are wearing an earpiece and a pad on the arm, each linked by wires to the device so that the click and shock can be continually delivered to them. “We think that if they wear this for four hours a day we will be able to see a permanent improvement in their extensor muscle connections which will help them gain control on their hand.” Following successful work in primates and healthy human subjects, the Newcastle University team are now working with the Institute of Neurosciences in Kolkata, India, to start the clinical trial. Stroke recovery device…

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