Magnetic Brain Stimulation To Help Stroke Patients With Swallowing
By Rebecca Lim | Health & Medicine
September 12, 2011
Researchers are using magnetic stimulators to jump start the brain after a stroke and repair swallowing functions which malfunction in over half of stroke patients.
AsianScientist (Sep. 12, 2011) – Swallowing, a simple function we take for granted, is the focus of a University of Adelaide study which could help thousands of stroke sufferers around the world.
Researchers from the University’s Robinson Institute are using magnetic stimulators to jump start the brain after a stroke and repair swallowing functions which break down in more than 50 percent of stroke patients.
In support of this research, speech pathologist Dr. Sebastian Doeltgen, a member of the University’s Neuromotor Plasticity & Development Research Group, has been awarded AU$300,000 in Federal Government funding to investigate revolutionary techniques to treat swallowing disorders.
“About 60,000 people suffer strokes each year in Australia alone, with more than 35,000 of these initially experiencing problems with swallowing. That is a huge part of the stroke population who have difficulty eating or drinking and may have to be fed through a tube,” he said.
“There are up to 32 muscle pairs involved in swallowing and all have to work in perfect harmony to get food and drink from the lips down into the stomach. This activity places a huge demand on the brain.”
“When people have strokes, the parts of their brains that control the muscles in the mouth and throat are often damaged and we have to find ways to reactivate these regions. Using the magnetic stimulators we can create electrical currents in the brain that stimulate the nerve cells which we believe help control swallowing,” he said.
His group is the only one in Australia – and one of only a handful in the world – using magnetic stimulation and brain exercises to develop new rehabilitation approaches for swallowing disorders.
Swallowing problems are a very common result of strokes, but they also often accompany a range of neurodegenerative disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, and even premature birth.
“As strokes are the second biggest killer in Australia and a leading cause of disability worldwide, the cost to the health care system as well as quality of life of those affected is enormous,” he said.
“Swallowing disorders form a large part of these disabilities but no one ever thinks about swallowing. It is like breathing. We take it for granted but imagine the impact on your life if you couldn’t swallow anymore. It’s huge.”
As part of National Stroke Week, which runs from September 12-18, the University of Adelaide is launching a campaign to raise money for stem cell research into stroke-damaged brains. For more information go to www.dontspeak.org.au.
Source: University of Adelaide.
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