Electrical Brain Stimulation May Boost Dexterity

Finding could lead to new treatments for stroke victims, study suggests

THURSDAY, Oct. 30, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- A little of jolt of electricity to the brain could improve dexterity, a finding that could hold promise for stroke victims.

Researchers found that applying transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a weak electrical stimulation to the scalp, to both motor skills regions in the brain helped right-handed volunteers improve their scores by 24 percent on a test that required them to key numbers using the fingers of the left hand.

Scores improved by 16 percent when only one region was stimulated by the current, and 12 percent when, unbeknownst to the test subjects, the researchers didn't apply the current to either region.

The results of the study, done on 16 healthy volunteers by Drs. Gottfried Schlaug and Bradley Vines of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, were published in the open-access journal BMC Neuroscience.

In tDCS, a weak direct current passes from electrodes through the scalp and skull to alter the excitability of underlying brain tissue. This type of noninvasive brain stimulation has no reported negative side effects.

"The results of our study are relevant to clinical research on motor recovery after stroke," Schlaug said in a journal news release. "They point to the possibility that stimulating both sides of the brain simultaneously, using the effects of the direct current to block unwanted effects of one motor region while using the opposite effects of the direct current treatment on the other motor region to enhance and facilitate the function of that motor region, might catalyze motor recovery."

More information

The American Stroke Association has more about strokes.

SOURCE: BioMed Central, news release, Oct. 28, 2008
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