Posts Tagged Exercise

[NEWS] New Virtual Reality Therapy game could offer relief for patients with chronic pain, mobility issues

News-MedicalA Virtual Reality Therapy game (iVRT) which could introduce relief for patients suffering from chronic pain and mobility issues has been developed by a team of UK researchers.

Dr Andrew Wilson and colleagues from Birmingham City University built the CRPS app in collaboration with clinical staff at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust for a new way to tackle complex regional pain syndrome and to aid people living with musculoskeletal conditions.

Using a head mounted display and controllers, the team created an immersive and interactive game which mimics the processes used in traditional ‘mirror therapy’ treatment. Within the game, players are consciously and subconsciously encouraged to stretch, move and position the limbs that are affected by their conditions.

Mirror therapy is a medical exercise intervention where a mirror is used to create areflective illusion that encourages patient’s brain to move their limb more freely. This intervention is often used by occupational therapists and physiotherapists to treat CRPS patients who have experienced a stroke. This treatment has proven to be successful exercises are often deemed routine and mundane by patients, which contributes to decline in the completion of therapy.

Work around the CRPS project, which could have major implications for other patient rehabilitation programmes worldwide when fully realised, was presented at the 12th European Conference on Game Based Learning (ECGBL) in France late last year.

Dr Wilson, who leads Birmingham City University’s contribution to a European research study into how virtual reality games can encourage more physical activity, and how movement science in virtual worlds can be used for both rehabilitation and treatment adherence, explained, “The first part of the CRPS project was to examine the feasibility of being able to create a game which reflects the rehabilitation exercises that the clinical teams use on the ground to reduce pain and improve mobility in specific patients.”

“By making the game enjoyable and playable we hope family members will play too and in doing so encourage the patient to continue with their rehabilitation. Our early research has shown that in healthy volunteers both regular and casual gamers enjoyed the game which is promising in terms of our theory surrounding how we may support treatment adherence by exploiting involvement of family and friends in the therapy processes.”

The CRPS project was realized through collaborative working between City Hospital, Birmingham, and staff at the School of Computing and Digital Technology, and was developed following research around the provision of a 3D virtual reality ophthalmoscopy trainer.

Andrea Quadling, Senior Occupational Therapist at Sandwell Hospital, said “The concept of using virtual reality to treat complex pain conditions is exciting, appealing and shows a lot of potential. This software has the potential to be very helpful in offering additional treatment options for people who suffer with CRPS.”

via New Virtual Reality Therapy game could offer relief for patients with chronic pain, mobility issues

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[WEB SITE] How to stretch your hands and wrists – Videos

Wrist pain can be frustrating and inconvenient. It can also make work or basic day-to-day activities, such as using a computer or cooking a meal, more difficult.

Exercises can improve mobility and decrease the chance of injury or reinjury. Wrist stretches are easy to do at home or at the office. When done properly, they can benefit a person’s overall wrist and hand health.

Anyone experiencing chronic pain or pain with numbness should visit a doctor for a thorough diagnosis.

The following stretches can help improve strength and mobility:

Wrist and hand stretches

A person should do the exercises below slowly and gently, focusing on stretching and strengthening. If the stretch hurts, stop.

The following wrist and hand stretches may improve strength and mobility:

1. Raised fist stretch

Raised fist stretch

To do this stretch:

  1. Start with your arm up beside your head, with your hand open.
  2. Make a fist, keeping your thumb outside of it.
  3. Slide your fingers toward your wrist until you feel a stretch.

2. Wrist rotations

Wrist rotations

To do this stretch:

  1. Stretch your arm out in front of you.
  2. Slowly, point the fingers down until you feel a stretch. Use the other hand to gently pull the raised hand toward the body. Hold this position for 3–5 seconds.
  3. Point the fingers toward the ceiling until you feel a stretch. Use the other hand to gently pull the raised hand toward the body. Hold this position for 3–5 seconds.
  4. Repeat this three times.

3. Prayer position

Prayer position

To do this stretch:

  1. Sit with your palms together and your elbows on the table in a prayer position.
  2. Lower the sides of the hands toward the table until you feel a stretch. Keep your palms together. Hold this position for 5–7 seconds.
  3. Relax.
  4. Repeat this three times.

4. Hooked stretch

Hooked stretch

To do this stretch:

  1. Hook one elbow under the other and pull both arms towards the center of the torso. You should feel a stretch in your shoulders.
  2. Wrap one arm around the other so that the palms are touching.
  3. Hold the position for 25 seconds.
  4. Switch arms and repeat it on the other side.

5. Finger stretch

finger stretch

To do this stretch:

  1. Bring the pinky and ring fingers together.
  2. Separate the middle and index fingers from the ring finger.
  3. Repeat the stretch 10 times.

6. Fist-opener

Fist opener

To do this stretch:

  1. Make a fist and hold it in front of you.
  2. Stretch your fingers until your hand is flat and open, with the fingers together.
  3. Repeat the movements 10 times.

7. Sponge-squeeze

Sponge squeeze

To do this stretch:

  1. Squeeze a sponge or stress ball, making a fist.
  2. Hold the position for 10 seconds.
  3. Relax.
  4. Repeat this 10 times.

8. Windshield wiper wrist movement

To do this stretch:

  1. Start with your hand face down on a table.
  2. Gently, point the hand to one side as far as it can go without moving the wrist. Hold it there for 3–5 seconds.
  3. Do the same on the other side.
  4. Repeat the movement three times on each side.

9. Thumb pull

To do this stretch:

  1. Grab your thumb with the other hand.
  2. Gently pull the thumb backward, away from the hand.
  3. Hold the stretch for 25 seconds.
  4. Repeat it on the other thumb.

10. Flower stretch

To do this stretch:

  1. Stretch the arms in front of you, with the backs of the hands and wrists touching.
  2. Imagine an invisible force pulling the fingers further from the body. Feel the stretch.
  3. Hold it for 25 seconds.

11. Finger fan

To do this stretch:

  1. Make a fist.
  2. Stretch your fingers outwards as far as they can go, like a fan.
  3. Repeat the movements 10 times.

12. Imaginary piano

To do this stretch:

  1. Pretend to play a piano.
  2. Flip your hands over and play an upside-down piano.

13. Finger pulls

To do this stretch:

  1. Lay your hand flat on a table.
  2. Gently pull a finger upward so that it points toward the ceiling.
  3. Hold the position for 5 seconds.
  4. Release the finger.
  5. Repeat this on all the other fingers.

14. Alternate finger stretch

To do this stretch:

  1. Bring the middle and ring fingers together.
  2. Separate the pinky and index fingers from them.
  3. Repeat the stretch 10 times.

15. Wrist-strengthener

To do this stretch:

  1. Get into position on your hands and knees, with the fingers pointing toward the body.
  2. Slowly lean forward, keeping your elbows straight.
  3. Hold the position for 20 seconds.
  4. Relax, then repeat the stretch.

Takeaway

Working with computers, writing, and doing manual labor put strain on the hands and wrists and can cause problems over time, such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Taking frequent breaks and stretching before and while using the hands and wrists can help prevent strain. Improving flexibility and strength gradually can help people avoid wrist and hand injuries.

via Medical News Today: How to stretch your hands and wrists

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[Abstract] Improving walking ability in people with neurological conditions: A theoretical framework for biomechanics driven exercise prescription

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to discuss how knowledge of the biomechanics of walking can be used to inform the prescription of resistance exercises for people with mobility limitations. Muscle weakness is a key physical impairment that limits walking in commonly occurring neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and stroke. Few randomised trials to date have shown conclusively that strength training improves walking in people living with these conditions. This appears to be because

1) the most important muscle groups for forward propulsion when walking have not been targeted for strengthening, and

2) strength training protocols have focused on slow and heavy resistance exercises, which do not improve the fast muscle contractions required for walking.

We propose a theoretical framework to improve exercise prescription by integrating the biomechanics of walking with the principles of strength training outlined by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), to prescribe exercises that are specific to improving the task of walking. The high angular velocities that occur in the lower limb joints during walking indicate that resistance exercises targeting power generation would be most appropriate. Therefore, we propose the prescription of plyometric and ballistic resistance exercise, applied using the ACSM guidelines for task-specificity, once people with neurological conditions are ambulating, to improve walking outcomes. This new theoretical framework for resistance training ensures that exercise prescription matches how the muscles work during walking.

via Improving walking ability in people with neurological conditions: A theoretical framework for biomechanics driven exercise prescription – Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

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[Abstract] Adherence to a Long-Term Physical Activity and Exercise Program After Stroke Applied in a Randomized Controlled Trial

Abstract

Background: Persistent physical activity is important to maintain motor function across all stages after stroke.
Objective: The objective of this study was to investigate adherence to an 18-month physical activity and exercise program.
Design: The design was a prospective, longitudinal study including participants who had had a stroke randomly allocated to the intervention arm of a randomized controlled trial.
Methods: The intervention consisted of individualized monthly coaching by a physical therapist who motivated participants to adhere to 30 minutes of daily physical activity and 45 minutes of weekly exercise over an 18-month period. The primary outcome was the combination of participants’ self-reported training diaries and adherence, as reported by the physical therapists. Mixed-effect models were used to analyze change in adherence over time. Intensity levels, measured by the Borg scale, were a secondary outcome.
Results: In total, 186 informed, consenting participants who had had mild-to-moderate stroke were included 3 months after stroke onset. Mean age was 71.7 years (SD = 11.9). Thirty-four (18.3%) participants withdrew and 9 (4.8%) died during follow-up. Adherence to physical activity and exercise each month ranged from 51.2% to 73.1%, and from 63.5% to 79.7%, respectively. Adherence to physical activity increased by 2.6% per month (odds ratio = 1.026, 95% CI = 1.014–1.037). Most of the exercise was performed at moderate-to-high intensity levels, ranging from scores of 12 to 16 on the Borg scale, with an increase of 0.018 points each month (95% CI = 0.011–0.024).
Limitations: Limitations included missing information about adherence for participants with missing data and reasons for dropout.
Conclusions: Participants with mild and moderate impairments after stroke who received individualized regular coaching established and maintained moderate-to-good adherence to daily physical activity and weekly exercise over time.

 

via Adherence to a Long-Term Physical Activity and Exercise Program After Stroke Applied in a Randomized Controlled Trial | Physical Therapy | Oxford Academic

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[BLOG POST] Antidepressants help us understand why we get fatigued during exercise

In general, the term ‘fatigue’ is used to describe any exercise-induced decline in the ability of a muscle to generate force. To identify the causes of fatigue, it is common to examine two divisions of the body that might be affected during exercise. The central component of fatigue includes the many nerves that travel throughout the brain to the spinal cord. The peripheral component predominantly reflects elements in the muscle itself. If there is a problem with either of these components, the ability to contract a muscle might be compromised. For many years, there has been suggestion that central fatigue is heavily influenced by neurotransmitters that get released in the central nervous system (such as dopamine and serotonin). However, little research has been performed in this area.

Serotonin is a chemical that can improve mood, and increasing the amount of serotonin that circulates in the brain is a common therapy for depression. However, serotonin also plays a vital role in activating neurons in the spinal cord which tell the muscle to contract. With the correct amount of serotonin release, a muscle will activate efficiently. However, if too much serotonin is released, there is a possibility that the muscle will rapidly fatigue. Recent animal studies indicate that moderate amounts of serotonin release, which are common during exercise, can promote muscle contractions (Cotel et al. 2013). However, massive serotonin release, which may occur with very large bouts of exercise, could further exacerbate the already fatigued muscle (Perrier et al. 2018).

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. These medications keep serotonin levels high in the central nervous system by stopping the chemical from being reabsorbed by nerves (reuptake inhibition). Instead of using SSRIs to relieve symptoms of depression, we used them in our recent study (Kavanagh et al. 2019) to elevate serotonin in the central nervous system, and then determine if characteristics of fatigue are enhanced when serotonin is elevated. We performed three experiments that used maximal voluntary contractions of the biceps muscle to cause fatigue in healthy young individuals. Our main goal was to determine if excessive serotonin limits the amount of exercise that can be performed, and then determine which central or peripheral component was compromised by excessive serotonin.

WHAT DID WE FIND?

Given that SSRIs influence neurotransmitters in the central nervous system, it was not surprising that peripheral fatigue was unaltered by the medication. However, central fatigue was influenced with enhanced serotonin. The time that a maximum voluntary contraction could be held was reduced with enhanced serotonin, whereby the ability of the central nervous system to drive the muscle was compromised by 2-5%. We further explored the location of dysfunction and found that the neurons in the spinal cord that activate the muscle were 4-18% less excitable when fatiguing contractions were performed in the presence of enhanced serotonin.

SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPLICATIONS

The central nervous system is diverse, and the fatigue that is experienced during exercise is not just restricted to the brain. Instead, the spinal cord plays an integral role in activating muscles, and mechanisms of fatigue also occur in these lower, often overlooked, neural circuits. This is the first study to provide evidence that serotonin released onto the motoneurones contributes to central fatigue in humans.

PUBLICATION REFERENCE

Kavanagh JJ, McFarland AJ, Taylor JL. Enhanced availability of serotonin increases activation of unfatigued muscle but exacerbates central fatigue during prolonged sustained contractions. J Physiol. 597:319-332, 2019.

If you cannot access the paper, please click here to request a copy.

KEY REFERENCES

Cotel F, Exley R, Cragg SJ, Perrier JF. Serotonin spillover onto the axon initial segment of motoneurons induces central fatigue by inhibiting action potential initiation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 110:4774-4779, 2013.

Perrier JF, Rasmussen HB, Jørgensen LK, Berg RW. Intense activity of the raphe spinal pathway depresses motor activity via a serotonin dependent mechanism. Front Neural Circuits. 11:111, 2018.

AUTHOR BIO

Associate Professor Justin Kavanagh is a researcher and lecturer at Griffith University. His team explores how the central nervous system controls voluntary and involuntary movement, and he has particular interests in understanding how medications can be used to study mechanisms of human movement.

via Antidepressants help us understand why we get fatigued during exercise – Motor Impairment

 

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[TED Talk] The Brain-Changing Effects of Exercise

What’s the most transformative thing that you can do for your brain today? Exercise! says neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki. Get inspired to go to the gym as Suzuki discusses the science of how working out boosts your mood and memory — and protects your brain against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured by our editors on the home page.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Wendy Suzuki · Neuroscientist, author Wendy Suzuki is researching the science behind the extraordinary, life-changing effects that physical activity can have on the most important organ in your body: your brain.

Transcript

03:54
05:02
07:13
09:41
11:13
12:12
12:43
12:46
12:47

via The Brain-Changing Effects of Exercise

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[Abstract + References] Epilepsy, Physical Activity and Sports: A Narrative Review

Abstract

People with epilepsy (PWE) are less physically active compared with the general population. Explanations include prejudice, overprotection, unawareness, stigma, fear of seizure induction and lack of knowledge of health professionals. At present, there is no consensus on the role of exercise in epilepsy. This paper reviews the current evidence surrounding the risks and benefits associated with physical activity (PA) in this group of patients. In the last decade, several publications indicate significant benefits in physiological and psychological health parameters, including mood and cognition, physical conditioning, social interaction, quality of life, as well as potential prevention of seizure presentation. Moreover, experimental studies suggest that PA provides mechanisms of neuronal protection, related to biochemical and structural changes including release of β-endorphins and steroids, which may exert an inhibitory effect on the occurrence of abnormal electrical activity. Epileptic discharges can decrease or disappear during exercise, which may translate into reduced seizure recurrence. In some patients, exercise may precipitate seizures. Available evidence suggests that PA should be encouraged in PWE in order to promote wellbeing and quality of life. There is a need for prospective randomized controlled studies that provide stronger clinical evidence before definitive recommendations can be made.

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[WEB SITE] Virtual personal trainer helps seniors get more exercise at home

U of A researcher developing personalized program that brings the appeal of electronic gaming to physical therapy for older adults.

By BEV BETKOWSKI

 

A high-tech University of Alberta research project is letting seniors hit a computerized gym especially designed for their needs.

VirtualGym, an electronic game that combines the entertainment of gaming with prescribed exercises, is being put through its paces in a Calgary seniors’ residence to test its user-friendliness and appeal.

Once perfected, it will deliver at-home therapeutic exercises for seniors with chronic health issues, mobility problems or dementia, at the click of a button.

“It’s a concept of bringing rehabilitation home,” said PhD candidate Noelannah Neubauer, who helped design the program. “We already have telehealth being used by doctors, why not rehabilitation too?”

The joint research project is teaming computing scientist Eleni Stroulia and other researchers from the faculties of science and rehabilitation medicine, with support from AGE-WELL, Canada’s Technology and Aging Network.

Designed to work through Kinect, a motion sensor system originally designed for Xbox video game consoles, VirtualGym works by giving users personalized feedback as they exercise along with an onscreen avatar using a “Simon Says” theme.

“It’s designed so the exercises are completely customizable from a personal trainer or physical therapist and their progress can be monitored,” Neubauer said. By recording users’ movements through VirtualGym, therapists can remotely watch for progressions and adjust exercises accordingly.

Stroulia and her team thought their original version of VirtualGym, developed in 2015, would be a good fit for seniors, but it was a flop with their test group, who found the game too busy.

“They didn’t like it at all,” said Victor Fernandez-Cervantes, a post-doctoral researcher in computing science, who took it back to the drawing board.

Using feedback from Edmonton senior Stuart Embleton and other volunteers from the Cardiac Athletic Society of Edmonton who tried the system, Fernandez-Cervantes made VirtualGym more user-friendly.

“We wanted to design it from their point of view.”

He dialled down the noise with a less distracting and cartoonish version of the game. The screen scenery evolved from its original version—an instructional avatar exercising on snowy ground in front of a brick building—to a soothing blank-walled room with a potted plant at either side. The avatar’s build was also adjusted to reflect a more typical body shape for older adults. As well, he programmed its movements with simple but specific instructions on how to do an exercise properly, complete with correctional tools like arrows and colours that pop up if needed.

Fernandez-Cervantes is continuing to tweak VirtualGym to create a 3-D version. Right now the exercises are only partially viewable, which is a problem for seniors, Embleton believes. “If the program wants you to lift your leg and kick your foot up, you should be able to see that action from a suitable perspective,” he explained.

Other planned improvements include adding simple games to measure cognitive awareness for users. “Over time, perhaps changes in scores could reflect varying levels of cognitive impairment,” Neubauer said.

The eventual plan is to market VirtualGym widely through a spinoff company, Stroulia said.

Embleton, 77, believes seniors would use VirtualGym if it were available to them.

“Most seniors nowadays have computers and TV sets, and that, plus an optical input, is all you need to use the system. It’s going to be more and more useful as it’s further developed. It’s called a game, but it’s really a useful therapeutic process. If I had a broken hip or was frail or couldn’t drive, and needed some physical therapy, I could use a virtual gym at home,” he said.

That’s especially valuable for rural or shut-in seniors who can’t go to real-life gym classes or make regular visits to physiotherapy clinics, said Neubauer.

“We want seniors to be able to exercise more, and this provides another option for them.”

Their work on VirtualGym also offers insight and a set of guidelines for other game designers wanting to develop exercise technology for seniors, said Fernandez-Cervantes.

“When designing products, seniors need to be involved. Soon enough, everyone will be a senior.”

 

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[WEB SITE] Virtual Reality Reduces Pain and Increases Performance During Exercise – Neuroscience News

Summary: Researchers report virtual reality can help to lower pain levels and increase performance when undertaking physical activity. Participants using VR reported a pain intensity 10% lower than those not using the technology when performing isometric bicep curls.

Source: University of Kent.

The research, led by PhD candidate Maria Matsangidou from EDA, set out to determine how using VR while exercising could affect performance by measuring a raft of criteria: heart rate, including pain intensity, perceived exhaustion, time to exhaustion and private body consciousness.

To do this they monitored 80 individuals performing an isometric bicep curl set at 20% of the maximum weight they could lift, which they were then asked to hold for as long as possible. Half of the group acted as a control group who did the lift and hold inside a room that had a chair, a table and yoga mat on the floor.

The VR group were placed in the same room with the same items. They then put on a VR headset and saw the same environment, including a visual representation of an arm and the weight (see image below). They then carried out the same lift and hold as the non-VR group.

The results showed a clear reduction in perception of pain and effort when using VR technology. The data showed that after a minute the VR group had reported a pain intensity that was 10% lower than the non-VR group.

Furthermore the time to exhaustion for the VR group was around two minutes longer than those doing conventional exercise. The VR group also showed a lower heart rate of three beats per minute than the non-VR group.

Results from the study also showed no significant effect of private body consciousness on the positive impact of VR. Private body consciousness is the subjective awareness each of us has to bodily sensations.

the vr system

Previous research has shown that individuals who have a high private body consciousness tend to better understand their body and as a result perceive higher pain when exercising. However, the study’s findings revealed that VR was effective in reducing perceived pain and that private body consciousness did not lessen this effect.

As such, the improvements shown by the VR group suggest that it could be a possible way to encourage less active people to exercise by reducing the perceived pain that exercise can cause and improving performance, regardless of private body consciousness.

Lead researcher Maria Matsangidou said: ‘It is clear from the data gathered that the use of VR technology can improve performance during exercise on a number of criteria. This could have major implications for exercise regimes for everyone, from occasional gym users to professional athletes.’

ABOUT THIS NEUROSCIENCE RESEARCH ARTICLE

 

Dr Jim Ang from EDA and Dr Alex Mauger from the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences at Kent were also involved in the research.

Source: Dan Worth – University of Kent
Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Maria Matsangidou.
Original Research: Abstract for “Is your virtual self as sensational as your real? Virtual Reality: The effect of body consciousness on the experience of exercise sensations” by Maria Matsangidou, Chee Siang Ang, Alexis R. Mauger, Jittrapol Intarasirisawat, Boris Otkhmezuri, and Marios N. Avraamides in Psychology of Sports and Exercise. Published July 18 2018.
doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2018.07.004

CITE THIS NEUROSCIENCENEWS.COM ARTICLE
University of Kent”Virtual Reality Reduces Pain and Increases Performance During Exercise.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 1 October 2018.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/virtual-reality-pain-exercise-9941/&gt;.

Abstract

Is your virtual self as sensational as your real? Virtual Reality: The effect of body consciousness on the experience of exercise sensations

Objectives
Past research has shown that Virtual Reality (VR) is an effective method for reducing the perception of pain and effort associated with exercise. As pain and effort are subjective feelings, they are influenced by a variety of psychological factors, including one’s awareness of internal body sensations, known as Private Body Consciousness (PBC). The goal of the present study was to investigate whether the effectiveness of VR in reducing the feeling of exercise pain and effort is moderated by PBC.

Design and methods
Eighty participants were recruited to this study and were randomly assigned to a VR or a non-VR control group. All participants were required to maintain a 20% 1RM isometric bicep curl, whilst reporting ratings of pain intensity and perception of effort. Participants in the VR group completed the isometric bicep curl task whilst wearing a VR device which simulated an exercising environment. Participants in the non-VR group completed a conventional isometric bicep curl exercise without VR. Participants’ heart rate was continuously monitored along with time to exhaustion. A questionnaire was used to assess PBC.

Results
Participants in the VR group reported significantly lower pain and effort and exhibited longer time to exhaustion compared to the non-VR group. Notably, PBC had no effect on these measures and did not interact with the VR manipulation.

Conclusions
Results verified that VR during exercise could reduce negative sensations associated with exercise regardless of the levels of PBC.

 

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[WEB SITE] Researchers study how neurostimulator can improve rehabilitation for stroke patients

 

Researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are among the first in the world studying how a specific type of neurostimulator can improve rehabilitation for stroke patients.

As part of the clinical trial, an electrical device called a vagus nerve stimulator is surgically implanted in the patient’s chest wall. The Vivistim device, which connects to the vagus nerve in the neck, is used to “rewire” circuits in the brain associated with certain motor functions. Stroke can result in the loss of brain tissue and negatively affect various bodily functions from speech to movement, depending on the location of the stroke.

In an earlier pilot study, this approach known as Paired Vagus Nerve Stimulation was shown to benefit approximately 85 percent of the people who received the nerve stimulation, said Dr. Marcie Bockbrader, research physiatrist for the Neurological Institute at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

“This nerve stimulation is like turning on a switch, making the patient’s brain more receptive to therapy,” Bockbrader said. “The goal is to see if we can improve motor recovery in people who have what is, in effect, a brain pacemaker implanted in their body. The idea is to combine this brain pacing with normal rehab, and see if patients who’ve been through all of the other usual therapies after a stroke can get even better.”

The study is recruiting patients who suffered a stroke and have been left with poor arm function as a result. The study is open to patients who have suffered a stroke at least nine months ago up to 10 years ago.


Each participant will receive three one-hour sessions of intensive physiotherapy each week for six weeks to help improve their arm function.

Half of the group will also receive an implanted vagus nerve stimulator. During rehabilitation therapy sessions, when a patient correctly performs an exercise, the therapist pushes a button to trigger the device to stimulate the vagus nerve. This neurostimulator signals the brain to remember that movement.

“We are trying to see if this neurostimulator could be used to boost the effective therapy, creating a sort of ‘supercharged therapy.’ We want to determine if patients can recover more quickly through the use of this stimulation,” Bockbrader said.

Previous research indicates that vagus nerve stimulation causes the release of the brain’s own chemicals, called neurotransmitters that will help the brain form new neural connections which might improve participant’s ability to use their arm.

Traditional vagus nerve stimulation has been used in the United States and around the world to treat more than 100,000 patients for epilepsy.

 

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