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Waking Up Brains After Stroke

MINNEAPOLIS, MN (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- It strikes 800 thousand people every year and is the leading cause of long-term disability in the U.S. Ninety-five-percent of stroke survivors struggle to move their arms or hands after an attack. Now researchers are hoping to wake up hands by stimulating sleepy brain cells.

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From texting, to typing, to tickling the ivories, Carolyn Dussault is finally putting some power behind those hands.

"It's nice to be able to use both hands for sure," Carolyn Dussault told Ivanhoe.

She suffered a stroke as a fetus inside her mom. It left her arm so weak she rarely used it.

"It's been something I struggled with throughout life" Dussault said.

Until she enrolled in a study to wake up her brain -

"The magnetic stimulus penetrates the skull non-invasively and sends a signal down to these muscles" Physical therapist Dr. James Carey said.

Dr.Carey is an expert in kinesiology or body movement at the University of Minnesota and he is helping stroke patients regain movement using repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation r-t-m-s.

"We think we can wake up neurons that have been in slumber for the past months and even years" Dr. Carey said.

In the study, doctors treat Carolyn's non-stroke side relaxing that part of the brain. As a result, the stroke-damaged brain areas step up their activity. These scans show brain activity before and after treatment. In an earlier study in the journal, stroke patients that had RTMS showed improvement in motor function and hand movement. Those who had fake pulses didn't benefit. Dr. Carey hopes the therapy combined with traditional treatment will speed up recovery.

"Brushing your teeth, brushing your hair, daily activities. I'm so much faster, especially with typing on the computer. I do that a lot and I want to go into writing because it's what I'm most passionate about" Dussault said.

Now Carolyn's hands can keep up with her ambition.

Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:

Nick Hansen
Public Affairs
University of Minnesota

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