Touching Lives - February 2008
Swallowing problems after stroke -- can electrical brain stimulation help?
Researchers from the University of Manchester, led by Dr Shaheen Hamdy, are now looking at a safe and painless new technology called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which stimulates the brain using weak electric currents. Ongoing trials in the US suggest similar technologies can help stroke victims recover lost movement in their arms and hands. In Dr Hamdy’s study, the research team is investigating whether tDCS has the potential to help people recover their ability to eat and drink again. Firstly, they are assessing how to get the best out of tDCS by varying, for example, the duration and intensity of stimulation given to healthy volunteers. Secondly, they are assessing whether tDCS has the potential to help stroke patients recover their ability to swallow. The resulting data will help determine whether tDCS has the potential to increase someone’s chances of learning how to swallow again, and whether it can hasten their recovery. Researchers believe that tDCS may be ideally suited to routine use, being pain-free, portable and suitable for delivery by specially trained healthcare professionals.The ultimate hope is that it will eventually become a gold standard treatment, changing the lives of thousands of people each year. This project has been funded by a generous grant from The Henry Smith Charity.