UC study tests electromagnetic pulse that can wake up the brain after a stroke

CINCINNATI -- A new trial at the University of Cincinnati tests the benefits of non-invasive brain stimulation on hand and arm function during stroke rehabilitation, and its results could help the estimated 2,500 Cincinnatians who suffer from strokes every year.

Participants in the study receive hand and arm therapy with an occupational therapist in addition to the real or placebo treatments for transcranial magnetic stimulation, according to a news release.

TMS sends low-frequency, painless magnetic pulses through a device placed on the head for 15 minutes during a therapy visit while participants work with an occupational therapist to focus on improving the function of the weakened arm and hand.

Keri Dunning, an associate professor in UC's College of Allied Health's Department of Rehabilitation Sciences and licensed physical therapist, is the principal investigator for the trial.

"It helps patients by modulating the brain so that the two hemispheres -- the two parts of the brain -- talk well together again," Dunning said.

According to Dunning, it is common to have an inner hemisphere imbalance after a stroke, meaning the stroke side of the brain falls asleep and the other side dominates. Parts of the body controlled by the affected part of the brain can struggle to regain function.

"The purpose of the stimulating of the brain is to bring those two hemispheres balanced again," Dunning said. "Wake up the stroke part of the brain."

For Dunning, the coolest part study is that it is non-invasive.

"We don't have to do surgery; we don't have to put needles in the brain," Dunning said. "We can affect the brain by just resting the device on the head."

UC is one of six sites across the U.S. testing the technology for hand and arm stroke rehabilitation.

Those who would like to learn more or participate in the study can find more information by calling 513-558-7487.

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