Posts Tagged neurology

[ARTICLE] Identifying and Quantifying Neurological Disability via Smartphone – Full Text

Embedded sensors of the smartphones offer opportunities for granular, patient-autonomous measurements of neurological dysfunctions for disease identification, management, and for drug development. We hypothesized that aggregating data from two simple smartphone tests of fine finger movements with differing contribution of specific neurological domains (i.e., strength & cerebellar functions, vision, and reaction time) will allow establishment of secondary outcomes that reflect domain-specific deficit. This hypothesis was tested by assessing correlations of smartphone-derived outcomes with relevant parts of neurological examination in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. We developed MS test suite on Android platform, consisting of several simple functional tests. This paper compares cross-sectional and longitudinal performance of Finger tapping and Balloon popping tests by 76 MS patients and 19 healthy volunteers (HV). The primary outcomes of smartphone tests, the average number of taps (per two 10-s intervals) and the average number of pops (per two 26-s intervals) differentiated MS from HV with similar power to traditional, investigator-administered test of fine finger movements, 9-hole peg test (9HPT). Additionally, the secondary outcomes identified patients with predominant cerebellar dysfunction, motor fatigue and poor eye-hand coordination and/or reaction time, as evidenced by significant correlations between these derived outcomes and relevant parts of neurological examination. The intra-individual variance in longitudinal sampling was low. In the time necessary for performing 9HPT, smartphone tests provide much richer and reliable measurements of several distinct neurological functions. These data suggest that combing more creatively-construed smartphone apps may one day recreate the entire neurological examination.

Introduction

Neurological examination measures diverse functions of the central (CNS) and peripheral nervous systems to diagnose neurological diseases and guide treatment decisions. Thorough neurological examination takes between 30 and 60 min to complete and years of training to master. This poses problem both for developing countries, which often lack neurologists, and for developed countries where cost-hikes and administrative requirements severely limit the time clinicians spend examining patients.

Additionally, clinical scales derived from traditional neurological examination are rather insensitive and prone to biases, which limits their utility in drug development. Therefore, non-clinician administered measurements of physical disability such as timed 25-foot walk (25FW) and 9-hole peg test (9HPT) or measurements of cognitive functions exemplified by paced auditory serial addition test (PASAT) and symbol digit modalities test (SDMT), are frequently used in clinical trials of neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) (12). Especially combining these “functional scales” with clinician-based disability scales such as Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS)(3) into EDSS-plus (4) or Combinatorial weight-adjusted disability scale (CombiWISE) (5) enhances sensitivity of clinical trial outcomes. However, these sensitive combinatorial scales are rarely, if ever acquired in clinical practice due to time and expense constrains.

Measuring neurological functions by patients via smartphones (68) may pose a solution for all aforementioned problems, while additionally empowering patients for greater participation in their neurological care. We have previously found comparable sensitivity and specificity of simple, smartphone-amenable measurements of finger and foot taps to 9HPT and 25FW, respectively (9). In this study, we explored iterative development/optimization of smartphone-based measurements of neurological functions by: 1. Exploring clinical utility of new features that can be extracted from finger tapping; 2. Development of “balloon popping” smartphone test that builds on finger tapping by expanding neurological functions necessary for task completion to eye movements and cognitive skills, and 3. By decoding app-collected raw data into secondary (derived) features that may better reflect deficits in specific neurological functions.

 

Materials and Methods

Developing the Smartphone Apps

Tapping and Balloon popping tests were written using Java in the Android Studio integrated development environment. Both tests went through iterative development and optimization following beta testing with developers and then clinical trial testing with patients and healthy volunteers. Each of the individual tests are standalone applications and can be downloaded individually to the phone using an Android Package (APK) emailed to phones or directly installed through USB connection with Android Studio. Installation and initial testing of applications were completed on a variety of personal Android phones, with no particular specifications. Testing in the clinic with patients and longitudinal testing was completed on Google Pixel XL 2017 phones. Android 8.1 Oreo operating system was used for the most recent version of the application, with the intention of keeping the operating system the app runs on up to date with the most recent version released by Android.

For the purposes of this study, we created a front-end application that can flexibly incorporate a variety of test apps. The front-end prompts for user profiles where a testing ID, birth month and year, gender, and dominant hand may be entered so data collected is associated with the user profile. Through a cloud-based spreadsheet, “prescriptions” of test app configurations are set for each user such that they may have a unique combination of tests tailored to their disability level.

The tapping test goal was similar to previously validated non-smartphone administered tapping tests (9), where users had to tap as quickly as possible over a 10 s duration and the final score is the average of two attempts. The test uses touch recognition over a rectangular area covering the bottom half of a vertically oriented phone screen (Figure 1A). Users can tap anywhere in a marked off gray area. The total number of taps for each of two trials and the calculated average is displayed immediately afterwards on the screen. In addition to total taps over the duration of the test, the app also records the duration, Android system time, and pressure for each tap as background data. Pressure for app recording is interpreted from the size of the touch area on each tap, where larger tap area corresponds to a higher pressure reading. Because the pressure function was added later and therefore the data are missing for the majority of current cohort, this function is not investigated in current study.

FIGURE 1
www.frontiersin.orgFigure 1. Smartphone Apps. (A) Tapping Test where user can tap repeatedly anywhere in the gray rectangle over the bottom half of the screen. (B) Popping Test where the dark blue circle will disappear and simultaneously reappear randomly across the screen as soon as the user touches it.

The balloon popping test was conceptually envisioned as an extension of tapping test that expands neurological functions necessary for test completion from pure motoric, to motoric, visual, and cognitive (attention and reaction time). The primary goal for this test is to touch as many randomly generated dark blue circles (balloons) moving across the screen in succession over the 26-s test duration as possible. During optimization of the app we tested 3 sizes of the target balloon and a 100-pixel balloon was selected as optimal based on preliminary results. The analyses of the other two circle sizes are provided as part of sensitivity analyses (Supplementary Figure 1), as conclusions from these tests support data presented in the main text of the paper. There is only one balloon to pop on the screen at a time (Figure 1B) and as soon as the user touches anywhere on the circle, another circle will appear in a random location. The random generation of balloon locations was created by random number functions in Java for both the x and y coordinates of the center of the circle, with the constraint of the entire balloon having to be visible on the screen. If the user taps on a background location, the current balloon stays in the same location and is only moved to a new random location after accurately tapping on the balloon. Following app completion, the total number of balloons popped and calculated average (from two trials) is displayed on the phone for the user. The x and y coordinates of all balloon and background hits, the system time, duration, and pressure (in the same manner as tap pressure) for each tap are also recorded as background data and stored in cloud-based data system.

Following the completion of a tapping or balloon popping test trial, an intermediate message displayed on the screen asks if the users would like to submit their results or retake the most recent trial (Supplementary Videos 12). If the user selects the retake option the collected data for the trial is discarded locally on the phone and not sent to any cloud-based database. This was implemented to avoid noise associated with test interruptions or other unforeseen circumstances that affected test performance. Following selection of the submit option, the data is uploaded immediately to a cloud-based database if the smartphone is connected to WiFi. If the phone is not connected to WiFi, then the submitted test trial results are stored locally on the phone and uploaded to the database as soon as the phone is connected to WiFi.

The app development process is in continuation given user and clinician feedback in addition to integration of more tests into the front-end. User feedback, user’s ability to perform Apps in a “practice mode”, and training videos for individual tests (Supplementary Videos 12) are integrated into the front-end dashboard that manages different tests.[…]

Continue —->  Frontiers | Identifying and Quantifying Neurological Disability via Smartphone | Neurology

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[WEB PAGE] Study offers possibility of squelching a focal epilepsy seizure before symptoms appear

Patients with focal epilepsy that does not respond to medications badly need alternative treatments.

In a first-in-humans pilot study, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have identified a sentinel area of the brain that may give an early warning before clinical seizure manifestations appear. They have also validated an algorithm that can automatically detect that early warning.

These two findings offer the possibility of squelching a focal epilepsy seizure — before the patient feels any symptoms — through neurostimulation of the sentinel area of the brain. This is somewhat akin to the way an implantable defibrillator in the heart can staunch heart arrhythmias before they injure the heart.

In the pilot study, three epilepsy patients undergoing brain surgery to map the source of their focal epilepsy seizures also gave consent to add an investigational aspect to their planned surgeries.

As neurosurgeons inserted long, thin, needle-like electrodes into the brain to map the location of the electrical storm that initiates an epileptic seizure, they also carefully positioned the electrodes to add one more task — simultaneously record the electrical activity at the anterior nucleus of the thalamus.

The thalamus is a structure sitting deep in the brain that is well connected with other parts of the brain. The thalamus controls sleep and wakefulness, so it often is called the “pacemaker” of the brain. Importantly, preclinical studies have shown that focal sources of seizures in the cortex can recruit other parts of the brain to help generate a seizure. One of these recruited areas is the anterior thalamic nucleus.

The UAB team led by Sandipan Pati, M.D., assistant professor of neurology, found that nearly all of the epileptic seizures detected in the three patients — which began in focal areas of the cortex outside of the thalamus — also recruited seizure-like electrical activity in the anterior thalamic nucleus after a very short time lag. Importantly, both of these initial electrical activities appeared before any clinical manifestations of the seizures.

The UAB researchers also used electroencelphalography, or EEG, brain recordings from the patients to develop and validate an algorithm that was able to automatically detect initiation of that seizure-like electrical activity in the anterior thalamic nucleus.

“This exciting finding opens up an avenue to develop brain stimulation therapy that can alter activities in the cortex by stimulating the thalamus in response to a seizure,” Pati said. “Neurostimulation of the thalamus, instead of the cortex, would avoid interference with cognition, in particular, memory.”

“In epilepsy, different aspects of memory go down,” Pati explained. “Particularly long-term memory, like remembering names, or remembering events. The common cause is that epilepsy affects the hippocampus, the structure that is the brain’s memory box.”

Pati said these first three patients were a feasibility study, and none of the patients had complications from their surgeries. The UAB team is now extending the study to another dozen patients to confirm the findings.

“Hopefully, after the bigger group is done, we can consider stimulating the thalamus,” Pati said. That next step would have the goals of improved control of seizures and improved cognition, vigilance and memory for patients.

For epilepsy patients where medications have failed, the surgery to map the source of focal seizures is a prelude to two current treatment options — epilepsy surgery to remove part of the brain or continuous, deep-brain stimulation. If the UAB research is successful, deep brain stimulation would be given automatically, only as the seizure initiates, and it would be targeted at the thalamus, where the stimulation might interfere less with memory.

 

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[Quiz] 5 Things to Know About Diet and Epilepsy

©VesnaCvorovic/Shutterstock

Neurology Quiz: 5 Things to Know About Diet and Epilepsy

Jul 30, 2018

 

What are the main types of ketogenic diets and what advantages do they hold for epilepsy management? Take the quiz and learn more.

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[WEB SITE] Neuro Physios – check out these fabulous free resources!

Neuro Physios – check out these fabulous free resources!

 

I asked and Twitter answered…how can I keep on top of what’s happening in the world of Neuro Physiotherapy? There seem to be so many (brilliant) resources in the MSK world, from podcasts to blogs, that continually churn out opinion on the latest evidence and techniques, but I’d struggled to find anything similar in the Neuro world. So I did something I’ve not tried before and reached out on Twitter to see if anyone could help…and they did! The answer seems to be that there is a gap for some good general neuro physio online global discussion and commentary on the evidence, but there are some great free resources – and here they are! So take a look, let us know what you think, spread the word and please do let us know if you find any other gems out there.

Podcasts

MDTea Podcasts from Hearing Aid Podcasts
A series of podcasts for healthcare professionals working with older adults.   Each one also has a nice summary infographic and text notes. So they aren’t physio specific, but there are loads of useful ones for physios in there. For me these are everything a podcast should be: short, succinct, packed full of relevant details, and with a fun quiz at the end – what’s not to love?

Evidence-based practice blogs

When EBP meets neurological physiotherapy …
Controversial? apparently so. Evidence based? definitely. Useful? tons of good info and links with specifics of delivering evidence-based interventions from @sarahftyson.

Online resources

MS Practice – For Health Professionals
Website from the MS Society of Australia, with a useful section containing fact sheets for healthcare professionals on symptoms of MS and treatment options based on research evidence

Evidence-Based Review of Stroke Rehabilitation
A huge resource of in-depth reviews of well over 4,500 studies including over 2,300 randomized controlled trial – and all about stroke rehab.

GRASP
Background and detailed ‘how to’ guides (including patient booklets) to the evidence based GRASP (Graded Repetitive Arm Supplementary Program) arm and hand exercise program for people with stroke. A great resource you can take and use straight away with your patients.

FAME
From the same group as GRASP, this time for FAME – fitness and mobility exercise programme. FAME is a community-based exercise program developed for people with stroke who have some standing and walking ability, shown to improved mobility, cardiovascular fitness, arm and hand function.  Again, everything is available for you to pick this up and run yourself.

Enable me
Patient facing website full of resources on living with stroke

Journals

PLoS One
Great for neuro in general with some physio specific stuff

Free online training

Stroke Engine e-learning modules
Check out the module on aerobic exercise recommendations.

Introduction to MS: An Online Course for Fitness & Wellness Professionals
Six modules and a quiz, all about MS symptoms and exercise therapy

Understanding Parkinson’s for health and social care staff
Free online course from Parkinson’s UK and the Open University offers around 24 hours of learning time for health and social care staff

Stroke Training and Awareness Resources (STARS)
Resource based on the Stroke Core Competencies which were published by NHS Education for Scotland (NES) in 2005.

Royal college of GPs e-learning
Once you’ve registered you get access to loads of free resources. Broad range of subject areas, but there’s a well-stocked area on Neurological problems that is worth a look.

Apps

ViaTherapy
Pop in some information about your patient, get out some evidence-based suggestions for their upper limb rehab – it’s that simple!

So loads of really useful stuff – but there’s definitely scope for more in this area so hopefully we’ll see additional things popping up soon. Please get in touch and let us know of any other resources you come across that we could add to this list!

A big thanks to my colleagues @ECTTherapies for some extra resources and to all those who replied to my Twitter plea! All worth a follow: @anniemccluskey2@AVERTtrial@bendotellis@BlaiseDoran@Kath1872@sarahftyson@ScottBuxton_1.

 

via Neuro Physios – check out these fabulous free resources! – Physiospot – Physiotherapy and Physical Therapy in the Spotlight

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[WEB SITE] Study uncovers genetic trigger that may help the brain to recover from stroke, other injuries

Scientists have found a genetic trigger that may improve the brain’s ability to heal from a range of debilitating conditions, from strokes to concussions and spinal cord injuries.

A new study in mice from UT Southwestern’s O’Donnell Brain Institute shows that turning on a gene inside cells called astrocytes results in a smaller scar and – potentially – a more effective recovery from injury.

The research examined spinal injuries but likely has implications for treating a number of brain conditions through gene therapy targeting astrocytes, said Dr. Mark Goldberg, Chairman of Neurology & Neurotherapeutics at UT Southwestern.

“We’ve known that astrocytes can help the brain and spinal cord recover from injury, but we didn’t fully understand the trigger that activates these cells,” Dr. Goldberg said. “Now we’ll be able to look at whether turning on the switch we identified can help in the healing process.”

The study published in Cell Reports found that the LZK gene of astrocytes can be turned on to prompt a recovery response called astrogliosis, in which these star-shaped cells proliferate around injured neurons and form a scar.

Scientists deleted the LZK gene in astrocytes of one group of injured mice, which decreased the cells’ injury response and resulted in a larger wound on the spinal cord. They overexpressed the gene in other injured mice, which stimulated the cells’ injury response and resulted in a smaller scar. Overexpressing the gene in uninjured mice also activated the astrocytes, confirming LZK as a trigger for astrogliosis.

Dr. Goldberg said a smaller scar likely aids the healing process by isolating the injured neurons, similar to how isolating a spreading infection can improve recovery. “But we don’t know under what circumstances this hypothesis is true because until now we didn’t have an easy way to turn the astrocyte reactivity on and off,” he said.

Further study is needed to analyze whether a compact scar tissue indeed improves recovery and how this process affects the neurons’ ability to reform connections with each other.

Dr. Goldberg’s lab will conduct more research to examine the effects of astrogliosis in stroke and spinal cord injuries. The researchers will determine whether turning up LZK in mice in advance of an injury affects its severity. They will then measure how the formation of the compact scar helps or hinders recovery.

“It has been a big mystery whether increasing astrocyte reactivity would be beneficial,” said Dr. Meifan Amy Chen, the study’s lead author and Instructor of Neurology at the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute. “The discovery of LZK as an on switch now offers a molecular tool to answer this question.”

 

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[WEB SITE] New brain cells are added in elderly adult brains too

According to a new study from the Columbia University however, brain cells are continuously added to our brains even when we reach our 70s. This is a process called neurogenesis. Their work is published in a study that appeared in the latest issue of the journal Cell Stem Cell this week.

Neuron detailed anatomy illustrations. Neuron types, myelin sheath formation, organelles of the neuron body and synapse. Image Credit: Tefi / Shutterstock

Lead author Dr. Maura Boldrini, a research scientist at the department of psychiatry, Columbia University and her colleagues investigated the brains of 28 dead people aged between 14 and 79 years. They were studying the effects of aging on the brain’s neuron production. The team examined the brains that were donated by the families of the deceased at the time of death. The brains were frozen immediately at minus-112 degrees Fahrenheit before they could be examined. This preserved the tissues.

Neurogenesis has been shown to decline with age in lab mice and rats as well as in experimental primates. The team wanted to explore if same rates of decline are seen in human brains as well. So they checked the brains samples for developing neurons. These developmental stages included stem cells, intermediate progenitor cells, immature neuronal cells and finally new mature neurons. They focused on the hippocampus region of the brain that deals with memory and emotional control and behavior.

The results revealed that for all age groups, the hippocampus shows new developing neurons. The researchers concluded that even during old age, the hippocampus continues to make new neurons. The differences that they noted with age include reduction in the development of new blood vessels as people got older. The proteins that help the neurons to make new connections are reduced with age. This was a finding that differentiated ageing brains from younger ones, they explained. Boldrini said the new neurons are there in older brains but they make fewer connections than younger brains. This explains the memory losses and decrease in emotional resiliency in older adults she said.

An earlier study last month came from another set of researchers led by University of California San Francisco researcher Arturo Alvarez-Buylla. The study titled, “Human hippocampal neurogenesis drops sharply in children to undetectable levels in adults,” was published first week of March this year in the journal Nature.

The team found that after adolescence there is little or no neurogenesis in the brain. They examined the brains of 17 deceased individuals and 12 patients with epilepsy part of whose brains had been surgically resected. The debate between the two teams continues. Boldrini explained that Buylla’s team had examined different types of samples that were not preserved as her samples had been.

Further the other team examined three to five sections of the hippocampus and not the whole of it she explained. More studies on this needed to make concrete conclusions regarding neurogenesis in the elderly say experts.

References

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[WEB SITE] Can MRI Brain Scans Help Us Understand Epilepsy?

epilepsy

A massive meta-analysis of global MRI imaging data on epilepsy patients seeks to clarify a complicated and mysterious neurological disorder.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by seizures, which can vary from mild and almost undetectable to severe, featuring vigorous shaking. Almost 40 million people worldwide are affected by epilepsy. Epileptic seizures are caused by an abnormally high level of activity in nerve cells in the brain. A small number of cases have been tied to a genetic defect, and major trauma to the brain (such as an injury or stroke) can also induce seizures. However, for the majority of cases, the underlying cause of epilepsy is not known. In many instances, epilepsy can be treated with the use of anti-convulsant medication. Some people will experience an improvement in their symptoms to the point of no longer requiring medication, while others will not respond to medication at all. The variability of the disease with regards to physiology and progression makes it difficult to accurately diagnose.

How Does Epilepsy Affect the Brain?

There are multiple types of epilepsies, some more common than others, which affect different parts of the brain cortex. The disorder has been studied by using techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and analyses of brain tissue. The latter requires post-mortem collection of tissue, as biopsies are not routinely performed on living patients’ brains. A brain scan via MRI imaging can provide detail about pathological markers of epilepsy, but the massive amount of data collected worldwide by imaging has not yet been consolidated and analyzed in a robust manner. Gaining an understanding of distinct or shared disease markers for different forms of epilepsy could help clinicians identify targets for therapy and increase the personalization of treatment.

The ENIGMA Study

A recent study published in the journal BRAIN represents the largest neuroimaging analysis of epilepsy conducted to date.This study, called ENIGMA (Enhancing Neuro Imaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis)summarizes contributions from 24 research centers across 14 countries in Europe, North and South America, Asia, and Australia. Similar wide-ranging studies have revealed structural brain abnormalities in other neurological conditions such as schizophrenia, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The researchers had several goals in putting this meta-analysis together:

  1. To look at distinct types of epilepsy to see whether they share similar structural abnormalities of the brain.
  2. To analyze a well-known specific type of epilepsy, mesial temporal lobe epilepsy (MTLE) for differences between people afflicted with this disorder on different sides of the brain.
  3. To analyze idiopathic generalized epilepsies (IGE), which are thought to have a genetic component to their cause and aren’t often detectable via MRI.

The researchers compiled imaging data from 2,149 people with epilepsy and 1,727 healthy control subjects. The large sample size allowed them to perform high-powered statistical analysis of the data.

For analysis (1), the results showed that a diverse array of epilepsies showed common structural anomalies across several different regions of the brain. This suggested that distinct disease types share a common neuroanatomical signature.

For analysis (2), they found that people with mesial temporal lobe epilepsy on the right side of the hippocampus did not experience damage to the left side, and vice-versa. However, somewhat unexpectedly, they saw that damage extended to areas outside the hippocampus, suggesting that even a region-specific disorder like mesial temporal lobe epilepsy may be a network disease.

In analysis (3), the researchers found that contrary to many reports of a “normal” MRI for patients with idiopathic generalized epilepsy, several structural irregularities were observable over a large number of samples. These included reduced brain volume and thickness in several regions.

One Step Closer to Understanding Epilepsy

The authors noted some limitations to their study, such as the fact that all results were derived from cross-sectional data, meaning that it was not possible to determine whether certain features were the cause of severe brain damage at one point in time, or whether they were the product of progressive trauma. In addition, this study could not account for the possible contribution of other factors, such as medications, seizure type and frequency, and disease severity. However, this wide-scale meta-analysis represents an important step towards understanding how different types of epilepsies affect the brain, and hopefully can lead to more personalized and effective medical interventions.

Written by Adriano Vissa, PhD

Reference: Whelan CD, et al. Structural brain abnormalities in the common epilepsies assessed in a worldwide ENIGMA study. Brain. 2018; 141(2):391-408

 

via Can MRI Brain Scans Help Us Understand Epilepsy? – Medical News Bulletin | Health News and Medical Research

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[WEB SITE] Learning stress-reducing techniques may benefit people with epilepsy

Learning techniques to help manage stress may help people with epilepsy reduce how often they have seizures, according to a study published in the February 14, 2018, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“Despite all the advances we have made with new drugs for epilepsy, at least one-third of people continue to have seizures, so new options are greatly needed,” said study author Sheryl R. Haut, MD, of Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NY, and member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Since stress is the most common seizure trigger reported by patients, research into reducing stress could be valuable.”

The study involved people with seizures that did not respond well to medication. While all of the 66 participants were taking drugs for seizures, all continued to have at least four seizures during about two months before the study started.

During the three-month treatment period all of the participants met with a psychologist for training on a behavioral technique that they were then asked to practice twice a day, following an audio recording. If they had a day where they had signs that they were likely to have a seizure soon, they were asked to practice the technique another time that day. The participants filled out daily electronic diaries on any seizures, their stress level, and other factors such as sleep and mood.

Half of the participants learned the progressive muscle relaxation technique, a stress reduction method where each muscle set is tensed and relaxed, along with breathing techniques. The other participants were the control group-;they took part in a technique called focused attention. They did similar movements as the other group, but without the muscle relaxation, plus other tasks focusing on attention, such as writing down their activities from the day before. The study was conducted in a blinded fashion so that participants and evaluators were not aware of treatment group assignment.

Before the study, the researchers had hypothesized that the people doing the muscle relaxing exercises would show more benefits from the study than the people doing the focused attention exercises, but instead they found that both groups showed a benefit-;and the amount of benefit was the same.

The group doing the muscle relaxing exercises had 29 percent fewer seizures during the study than they did before it started, while the focused attention group had 25 percent fewer seizures, which is not a significant difference, Haut said. She added that study participants were highly motivated as was shown by the nearly 85 percent diary completion rate over a five-month period.

“It’s possible that the control group received some of the benefits of treatment in the same way as the ‘active’ group, since they both met with a psychologist and every day monitored their mood, stress levels and other factors, so they may have been better able to recognize symptoms and respond to stress,” said Haut. “Either way, the study showed that using stress-reducing techniques can be beneficial for people with difficult-to-treat epilepsy, which is good news.”

Haut said more research is needed with larger numbers of people and testing other stress reducing techniques like mindfulness based cognitive therapy to determine how these techniques could help improve quality of life for people with epilepsy.

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[WEB SITE] Virtual Reality for Stroke Rehabilitation

stroke rehabilitation

Researchers piloted a study to investigate the potential of using virtual reality (VR) training systems in stroke rehabilitation.

Following a stroke, survivors are often left with physical and mental disabilities. Nine out of ten stroke survivors are left with some degree of upper limb motor impairment, thus making it the most prevalent post-stroke disability suffered. Not only does stroke rehabilitation training need to be long-lasting, repetitive, task-specific and challenging, the training must also be motivating and intensive.

What is the Role of Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality (VR) is a relatively new approach to stroke rehabilitation that has shown to have moderate effectiveness in improving motor functions. VR can allow for embodied sensorimotor feedback where patients’ movements are reproduced in a virtual environment via motion capture technology. This enhanced VR experience has previously demonstrated an ability to increase patient motivation and stimulate neural circuits in the motor system to aid in functional recovery.

Can Virtual Reality Help with Stroke Rehabilitation?

In a pilot study published in the Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, researchers in Switzerland investigated the potential use of a VR-based stroke rehabilitation training targeted to the upper motor limbs. The study’s main goal was to assess the training intensity (the number of repetitions divided by the number of minutes of active therapy) and rehabilitation dose (number of repetitions). They also examined VR-based training improvements in functional upper limb outcomes and the safety and tolerance of this technology.

Ten stroke patients with one-sided weakness were included in the study, utilizing the Mind Motion PRO VR-based motor rehabilitation system. The intervention consisted of two one-hour sessions per week for five weeks with a physical therapist to guide the tasks according to the patient’s needs and abilities. Assessments were conducted at baseline (prior to training), post-treatment, and at a four-week follow-up. The participants engaged in VR treatment exercises that stimulated shoulder, elbow, forearm, and wrist movements at varying difficulties through game-like scenario tasks that included pointing, reaching, and grabbing objects in virtual space.

How Effective was the Virtual Reality Therapy?

All ten of the study’s participants completed the full ten training sessions in the treatment. The study found that the median duration of training increased by approximately ten minutes and the median effective training time (number of minutes that the participants actively trained, excluding breaks) per session doubled by the last session of the intervention. The intensity of the training (number of goal-directed movements per minute of effective training time) progressively increased from the first to last training session.

Secondarily, the study evaluated upper limb function, active range of motion and muscle strength, which all showed an increase from baseline. No adverse events were reported and pain and stress levels were low throughout the treatment, thus indicating that VR treatment is well tolerated. Lastly, the participants showed a high degree of concentration and comfort with the movements and expressed interest in continuing the training after the ten sessions, suggesting a high level of adherence and motivation for VR treatment – a key component to stroke rehabilitation treatment outcomes.

Overall, this pilot study demonstrated the ability of VR-based treatment to provide efficient training sessions, as the efficiency rate (relation between time of therapy session and time in active therapy) was 86.3%, which is higher than conventional therapies. The study supports the potential for VR-based intervention as stroke rehabilitation therapy to improve functional and motor outcomes. This should be further explored in future studies that incorporate control groups, a larger sample size, stratified groups and more intensive interventions with a variety of motor assessments.

Written by Maggie Leung, PharmD

Reference: Perez-Marcos, D., Chevalley, O., Schmidlin, T., Garipelli, G., Serino, A., Vuadens, P., . . . Millán, J. D. (2017). Increasing upper limb training intensity in chronic stroke using embodied virtual reality: a pilot study. Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation,14(1). doi:10.1186/s12984-017-0328-9

via Virtual Reality for Stroke Rehabilitation – Medical News Bulletin | Health News and Medical Research

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[WEB SITE] Monthly cycles of brain activity linked to seizures in patients with epilepsy

January 8, 2018
UC San Francisco neurologists have discovered monthly cycles of brain activity linked to seizures in patients with epilepsy. The finding, published online January 8 in Nature Communications, suggests it may soon be possible for clinicians to identify when patients are at highest risk for seizures, allowing patients to plan around these brief but potentially dangerous events.

“One of the most disabling aspects of having epilepsy is the seeming randomness of seizures,” said study senior author Vikram Rao, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of neurology at UCSF and member of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences. “If your neurologist can’t tell you if your next seizure is a minute from now or a year from now, you live your life in a state of constant uncertainty, like walking on eggshells. The exciting thing here is that we may soon be able to empower patients by letting them know when they are at high risk and when they can worry less.”

Epilepsy is a chronic disease characterized by recurrent seizures — brief storms of electrical activity in the brain that can cause convulsions, hallucinations, or loss of consciousness. Epilepsy researchers around the world have been working for decades to identify patterns of electrical activity in the brain that signal an oncoming seizure, but with limited success. In part, Rao says, this is because technology has limited the field to recording brain activity for days to weeks at most, and in artificial inpatient settings.

At UCSF Rao has pioneered the use of an implanted brain stimulation device that can quickly halt seizures by precisely stimulating a patient’s brain as a seizure begins. This device, called the NeuroPace RNS® System, has also made it possible for Rao’s team to record seizure-related brain activity for many months or even years in patients as they go about their normal lives. Using this data, the researchers have begun to show that seizures are less random than they appear. They have identified patterns of electrical discharges in the brain that they term “brain irritability” that are associated with higher likelihood of having a seizure.

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The new study, based on recordings from the brains of 37 patients fitted with NeuroPace implants, confirmed previous clinical and research observations of daily cycles in patients’ seizure risk, explaining why many patients tend to experience seizures at the same time of day. But the study also revealed that brain irritability rises and falls in much longer cycles lasting weeks or even months, and that seizures are more likely to occur during the rising phase of these longer cycles, just before the peak. The lengths of these long cycles differ from person to person but are highly stable over many years in individual patients, the researchers found.

The researchers show in the paper that when the highest-risk parts of a patient’s daily and long-term cycles of brain irritability overlap, seizures are nearly seven times more likely to occur than when the two cycles are mismatched.

Rao’s team is now using this data to develop a new approach to forecasting patients’ seizure risk, which could allow patients to avoid potentially dangerous activities such as swimming or driving when their seizure risk is highest, and to potentially take steps (such as additional medication doses) to reduce their seizure risk, similar to how people with asthma know to take extra care to bring their inhalers when pollen levels are high.

“I like to compare it to a weather forecast,” Rao said. “In the past, the field has focused on predicting the exact moment a seizure will occur, which is like predicting when lightning will strike. That’s pretty hard. It may be more useful to be able tell people there is a 5 percent chance of a thunderstorm this week, but a 90 percent chance next week. That kind of information lets you prepare.”

Source:
https://www.ucsf.edu/

via Monthly cycles of brain activity linked to seizures in patients with epilepsy

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