Brain stimulation may improve gait training post-stroke

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have launched a study to examine whether stroke patients who receive brain stimulation combined with gait training improve in their ability to walk post-stroke, according to a news release.

Funded by a $1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the study will examine how the brain changes post-stroke, and how to potentially boost functional recovery.

Patients aged 50 years and older who have had a stroke will receive electrical stimulation and motor training of the ankle, as ability to flex on the affected side becomes impaired post-stroke. The study will implement treadmill gait training and apply transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a technique that passes a low level current through the motor area of the brain, which controls the legs.

Researchers will also examine the physiological function of the cerebral cortex to see if brain plasticity changes after training. Patients’ walking speed and clinical quality-of-life will be evaluated after 4 weeks of training and again after 3 months.

According to Sangeetha Madhavan, PhD, assistant professor of physical therapy and director of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Brain Plasticity Lab, people with stroke respond differently to therapy, and the tDCS technique will offer a way to understand and help improve their functionality.

“We predict that activity…will increase after the brain stimulation-walking intervention,” she said. “Improving ability to walk would have an enormous impact on their quality of life.”

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