Touching Lives - November 2006
Breakthrough stroke study ends
You may recall reading about Dr Jane Warren’s study in Touching Lives last year. We reported on the exciting mid-way results of her research into aphasia — difficulty with speech and comprehension, often resulting from stroke. In fact, aphasia affects around a quarter of all stroke sufferers.
Dr Warren, an Action Medical Research Training Fellow, has just completed her two-year study, funded by Barnwood House Trust, which used specialised brain imaging techniques to identify the areas of the brain responsible for understanding speech, and their connections with each other. She compared the way the nerve cells function in healthy brains with those in patients who’ve been affected by stroke.
What Dr Warren has discovered is that stroke sufferers may have to ‘relearn’ language and meaning by using different parts of the brain to compensate for the damaged areas.This may mean using new pathways so that one side of the brain can talk to the other.
Therefore, the better these two sides of the brain can co-operate, the better the chance of speech recovery for the patient. This breakthrough could assist the development of new drug and therapy based treatments to help patients learn to speak again, and people could be benefiting from this work in just three to five years.
Dr Warren explains,”When a stroke occurs, the blood supply to part of the brain is blocked and, as a result, doesn’t get any oxygen or nutrients and dies. My work has shown that the brain has a remarkable range of alternative strategies to bypass these dead areas and resume normal service.
“If we can find ways to get the left and right sides of the brain co-operating with one another better after a stroke, we could improve the chances of recovery. It’s a very exciting result.”