Entries in Brain Stimulation (2)


Brain Stimulation Found to Speed Up Learning

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(BRADFORD, England) -- A mild zap to the brain could help people learn faster, according to new research recently presented at the British Science Festival.

The same technique might also some day help stroke patients recover lost motor skills.

Researchers at the University of Oxford have found that applying a small amount of electric current to the brain sped up learning, said the British Science Association, which sponsored the festival.

Using a technique called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a team of scientists, led by Heidi Johansen-Berg, electrically stimulated the brains of subjects trying to learn a computer game that required a series of button presses. The current was applied to the part of the brain that controls movement for about 10 minutes either before or during the game.

Subjects who received the current learned the sequences faster than subjects who received only a quick burst of electricity before the game.

"While the stimulation didn't improve the participant's best performance, the speed at which they reached their best was significantly increased," Johansen-Berg told BBC News.

The stimulation, Johansen-Berg added, could help people recovering from strokes. In a separate experiment, stroke patients who received the same electrical stimulation showed improved motor function.

Dr. Sarah Lisanby, chairwoman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University in Durham, N.C., has been involved in her own research using tDCS. She said the current acts on the parts of the brain affected by a stroke.

"By using direct current application during the performance of a task that engages the circuits affected by a stroke, the current can help facilitate the response that leads to recovery," she said. The technique, she said, shifts the electrical potential of the brain to facilitate learning.

Experts say it makes sense that a technique such as tDCS that might affect learning could also help stroke patients improve their level of functioning.

"Stroke recovery is a form of learning, but the brain cells involved in learning are damaged," said Dr. David Alexander, professor of neurology and medical director of the UCLA Neurological Rehabilitation and Research Unit. "We want brain cells uninvolved in the stroke to take over function, but those cells will have to learn that function that's been lost."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Brain Stimulation Could Help Lower High Blood Pressure

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BRISTOL, UK) – New research has discovered what may be a new treatment for those who have difficulty controlling their high blood pressure with medication, according to a study published in Neurology.

The finding is based on a case study of a 55-year-old man with high blood pressure who received a deep brain stimulator to help treat pain that developed from a stroke.

It was discovered that the device lowered the man’s blood pressure to a point where he no longer needed his blood pressure medication.

"This is an exciting finding as high blood pressure affects millions of people and can lead to heart attack and stroke, but for about one in 10 people, high blood pressure can't be controlled with medication or they cannot tolerate the medication," said Nikunj K. Patel of Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, UK.

Patel and his team found that the man’s blood pressure levels decreased gradually after the device was implanted and have remained under control without the use of medication.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio