Electrical Stimulators for Stroke Recovery

19 Feb 2016

A stroke is caused by the interruption of normal blood flow within the brain, and results in death of brain cells normally supplied by those blood vessels. Although rehabilitation leads to improvement in function, 85% of patients never regain full use of the arm and hand. To maximise recovery after stroke, surviving nerve cells in areas close to the stroke need to take over the lost function.

However, this is difficult to achieve because of overactivity in circuits that tend to ‘turn off’ or ‘inhibit’ these surviving areas. One of these offending circuits originates in the side of the brain opposite the stroke.

This study focuses to target this circuit and turn down its activity using an electrical stimulator implanted onto the brain opposite the stroke. We have studied this idea in models of stroke and found that our approach improves function. We now wish to determine if this approach will be feasible in humans who have arm and hand movement difficulties after stroke.

We will apply this stimulation in conjunction with a physiotherapy programme, and we hope that this will lead to greater recovery of hand and arm function than can be achieved by physiotherapy alone.