Tuesday, October 05, 2010

New Research Suggests Brain Damage From Stroke Might Not Be Permanent

A study currently being conducted by University of South Carolina researchers suggests that brain damage from a stroke might not be so permanent after all.

26 stroke sufferers with brain damage that left them with a speech disorder were put through 30 hours of speech therapy. Before and after each therapy session, they had their brains scanned with something called functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI), which can measure things like blood flow in the brain and spinal cord.

Out of those 26 stroke victims, researchers found a nice improvement in speech function in one-third of the patients. However, it's also worth noting that half of the patients didn't show any improvement at all.

What the study uncovered in the stroke patients where their speech function had improved was that the brain can adapt its surrounding healthy cells to make up for the damaged ones. In some cases, the brain can actually shift the function of the damaged area to a nearby healthy area.

I guess another good way to explain it is that the damaged cells, "call their neighbors for help". Sometimes they come to help, sometimes they don't. Typical neighbors, right?

"The areas that are immediately around the section of the brain that was damaged become more 'plastic,' this 'plasticity,' so to speak, increases around the brain lesions and supports recovery," Said Julius Fridriksson, the lead USC researcher of the study.

This research gives new hope for stroke victims with brain damage from around the world. The long held belief that brain damage from stroke is permanent may not be true anymore. At least, that's what this research suggests.

The study will last another 2 years or so and Julius expects major breakthroughs in this science within the next 10 years. Let's hope he is right.

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