Recovery from Brain Stroke

April 23, 2018

BUT FIRST!

A JAW-DROPPING STUDY

This is just a tease before the main course. But it is so GOOD I couldn’t wait to spill the beans!

This is just a tease!

I found researching topics regarding the brain to be very difficult. I’m not sure why but maybe the terminology, maybe the subject matter, maybe the seriousness of the articles or the fact most articles dealt with people’s injuries or illnesses?

Regardless, I thought I would try to draw you into the main portion of this post by offering a really cool tidbit of information.

The topic of this article on singularityhub.com is: “This Memory Prosthesis Boosts Recall in Humans by Roughly 40 Percent!” (the exclamation point is mine). The article is by Shelly Fan published on April 10, 2018.

This study describes the ability of the researchers headed by Dr. Robert Hampson at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, “to extract memory-encoding electrical signals directly from a group of human volunteers while they performed a memory task.”

SAY WHAT?

When asked to recall the task, “the researchers injected the signal back and it boosted the volunteer’s performance by roughly 37 percent!”

WOW!

The results of this research are published this month in the Journal of Neurol Engineering.

That scientists could identify and distill a patient’s own brain cell’s code into ‘electronic’ memories is a monumental step.

To translate the memories into Zeros and Ones is mind-boggling.

Imagine an Alzheimer’s patient or a stroke patient. They will now have a glimmer of hope to form new memories now that this finding will give their failing brains a boost.

Dr. Theodore Berger explains that something as abstract as a memory can be encoded as a mathematical equation. These equations are translated as electrical impulses and then re-implanted back into a person’s recall as a new memory.

Dr. Berger is a biomedical engineer at the University of Southern California.

With Dr. Dong Song, he developed a new model of hippocampal processing  (the hippocampus is a part of the limbic system responsible for long-term memory) that distills electrical signals of a rat learning to pick a correct lever into a computer code.

The researchers then used the same methods to restore memory deficits in monkeys.

Then came the work with 22 patients awaiting surgery for epilepsy.

This is where the article gets really scientific. I don’t think I can do it justice. So I must refer you to the article at singularityhub.com

A word about the very accomplished author: Ms. Shelly Xuelai Fan is a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco where she studies how to make old brains young again.

Onward to the Main Post

I am researching and writing this post (it will be part of a series) as a personal project. A dear friend and mentor suffered a devastating stroke.

His amazing perseverance and strength of character have brought him healing farther than I could have imagined.

He stills suffers on several fronts. I am trying to find a procedure, a medication, a tool that may help him further his progress.

I hope that soon one of these next research projects will provide the impetus for a company to formulate medications that will serve him well.

So Much Research

How do I sort all the research?

“Health Hub – Brain & Spine Health – Can a brain heal itself after a stroke?”

“Mechanisms that regenerate brain cells after stroke discovered”

“Post-stroke pain treatments – The Complete Guide”

“Recovery after stroke – Dealing with Pain”

This is a just a tiny sample of the information that is available. Some of it seems rather simplistic like, “What to do if you cut yourself with a rusty soup can?”

The rest is written in medicalese that my dim brain just glazes over trying to read it let alone comprehend what it means.

Perhaps I am just hoping for more grade level five articles. Perhaps I am just not good enough at researching technical topics.

I have been putting writing this post off for so long just because I feel so inadequate. But I must push on.

I should start at the beginning.

What is a stroke?

A stroke is a ‘brain attack”. A stroke can happen to anyone at any time. It occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off.

When a stroke occurs brain cells are deprived of oxygen and die. When brain cells die abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as memory or muscle control are lost.

How a person is affected by the stroke depends on where the stroke occurs and how much damage is done.

A ‘small’ stroke may cause some temporary weakness of an arm or leg.

Large strokes leave people permanently paralyzed on one whole side of the body or they can lose the ability to speak.

Some people recover from a stroke. But over two-thirds of survivors have some disability.

By the Numbers

Each year 800,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke

More women than men have strokes

A stroke happens every 40 seconds

Every 4 minutes someone dies from a stroke

Up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented

Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability in the U.S.

Types of Strokes

HEMORRHAGIC STROKE

A brain aneurysm that bursts or a weakened vessel leak is one of two types of strokes. It is the least common but causes the most deaths.

ISCHEMIC STROKE

A blood vessel carrying blood to the brain is blocked by a clot.

TIA

When blood flow to part of the brain stops for a short period, a transient ischemic attack (TIA) can mimic stroke-like symptoms. These appear and then last less than 24 hours before disappearing.

A TBI, traumatic brain injury is not a stroke nor is a stroke a TBI.

Pain

Injury pain – If you have damage to body tissue, you feel tissue pain.

Neuropathic pain – This is damage to brain’s pain-processing pathways. This is central post-stroke pain (CPSP) or nerve pain (about 12% of stroke survivors will suffer from central post-stroke pain. The brain is used to receiving normal sensory inputs, when it doesn’t, the brain itself produces the painful sensations.

Headaches – are more common after a hemorrhagic stroke. Hemorrhagic strokes are caused by a break in the wall of a blood vessel in the brain. Irritation of the lining of the brain or pressure on the lining can then cause headaches.

Ischemic strokes are caused by a blood clot that blocks a blood vessel in the brain. Blood cannot get to that area and damage occurs.

Headaches can also be a side effect of medications. A dull, generalized headache can sometimes be part of post-stroke fatigue.

Duration of Pain

Pain can be acute or chronic. Chronic pain often needs different treatment than acute pain.

Treatment and Recovery

Treatment can be with medication such as NSAIDs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, or steroid injections if a specific part of the body is injured.

Opioids can also reduce pain.

Psychological treatment is used to help change thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors related to pain.

Electrical Stimulation uses electrical impulses to activate nerves.

Exercise and devices to help support the exercises are used.

Keeping active is important because the body releases endorphins or natural painkillers.

Pain Management Clinics are available to teach techniques to cope with chronic pain.

Repairs

Way back in 2009, a new study pointed a way that could help stroke patients recover lost motor ability.

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) in combination with occupational therapy boosted recovery better than either treatment on its own.

The researchers used a simple device, a nine-volt battery connected to large flat sponges, moistened and applied to the head.

I have used the above tool, it is now called a TENS device. I now use an ‘Alpha-STIM’ device that aids in pain relief, relief of anxiety and depression, and also insomnia. The electrical microcurrents generated by the device stimulate the body and brain.

The Alpha-STIM M is manufactured by Electromedical Products International and provided to me by the Veterans Administration Healthcare System.

This device sends microcurrents at much lower levels than a TENS unit and the effects are longer lasting and cumulative. The price is correspondingly different. A TENS unit to relax muscles can be purchased on Amazon for about $30.00. An Alpha-STIM is about $800.00 and must be prescribed.

In 2009 studies showed patients had improvements lasting from a week to three months with an Alph-STIM.

The Dawn Study

“Standard stroke treatment guidelines have long dictated that there is a six-hour window to start treatment. However, a new study has shown that even if thrombectomy is performed beyond that timeframe, the benefits to patients are meaningful.” Futurism.com April 6, 2018, written by Brad Jones

The DAWN study observed 206 patients who were admitted to hospital between six and 24 hours after a stroke. One set of patients were treated according to standard guidelines.

The other set was treated using a procedure known as endovascular clot removal therapy. This is a thrombectomy.

In this study, 48.6 percent of patients that received this procedure could perform normal daily activities within 90 days after treatment.

Only 13.6 percent of patients achieved a comparable level of activity after receiving standard therapy. This test pertains to situations where the damage is minimal.

When presented to the Society of Vascular and Interventional Neurology’s 10th Annual Meeting last week it was met with a standing ovation from attendees.

A thrombectomy can be an effective way beyond current standards. There is an adage “time is brain” when it comes to treatment for stroke.

If you or someone you know may be having stroke get to the emergency room as soon as possible!

Continuing New Developments

A MECHANISM THAT REGENERATES

LUND UNIVERSITY, SWEDEN

Scientists in Sweden made an astounding breakthrough as published in The Journal Science. Working at Lund University and Karolinska Institutet identified an unknown mechanism in the brain.

They found that this mechanism produces new nerve cells after a stroke.

“This research shows that cells called “astrocytes” form new nerve cells in the injured part of the brain following a stroke.” This process follows astrocytes forming immature nerve cells which then develop into mature nerve cells has only been mapped in mice.

Zaal Kokaia, Professor of Experimental Medical Research at Lund University said: “This is the first time that astrocytes have been shown to start a process that leads to the generation of new nerve cells.”

“The scientists identified the signaling mechanism that stops this conversion from happening in an uninjured brain.”

This mechanism is stopped in a healthy brain and therefore stops the development of new nerve cells.

After a stroke, this mechanism is suppressed and astrocytes can then regenerate new cells.

“The major advancement with this new study is that, for the first time, self-repair in the adult brain involves astrocytes entering a process by which they  change their identity to nerve cells.”

Now the task is to see if astrocytes are converted to neurons in the human brain that has become damaged or diseased.

Astrocytes, spidery cells that are interspersed between neurons, carry a latent program that can entice astrocytes to replace neurons.” Science 10 Oct 2014; Vol. 346, Issue 6206, pp. 237-241 (see the image at the beginning of this post for the depiction of a mouse brain).

Olle Lindvall Senior Professor of Neurology states that this could become important not only for stroke victims but also people suffering from Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.

Strokes per year in the US 795,000 about 600,000 are for the first time and 185,000 are recurrent attacks. About 140,000 people die each year in the US from a stroke.

Striatum - input center for the basal ganglai Google Images

Basal Ganglia - best known for facilitating Voluntary Movement Google Images

The basal ganglia receive signals from the cerebral cortex and facilitate voluntary movement. Parkinson’s disease affects the basal ganglia pathways resulting in slow movement, tremors, and rigidity.

More new News

In an article in Brain & Spine Health posted on Monday, May 11,2015, entitled “Can a brain heal itself after stroke?”

“Neuroscientists believed the brain cells you were born with were the only ones you would ever have. Recent research centers on neurogenesis, the ability of the brain to create new nerve cells.”

“The new research involves stem cell research in learning how to maximize the benefits of this discovery.” Jon E Bentz. Ph.D. clinical neuropsychologist with Lancaster General Health Physicians Neuropsychology writes in Brain & Spine Health.

FDA APPROVED DRUG STROKE REPAIR

Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.

New research using a drug already approved by the FDA for clinical trials showed researchers could reduce brain damage and boost the growth of new brain cells in mice suffering from a stroke.

Researchers from the University of Manchester using this drug (that has already been approved) developed a new treatment that can promote repair in damaged areas of the brain due to stroke.

They used a drug, interleukin-1receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra) which is anti-inflammatory drug already licensed for treating rheumatoid arthritis. 

Along with researchers from Unidad de Investigacion Neurovascular, Departamento de Farmacologia, Facultad de Medicina, in Madrid, Spain and the Department of Neurology at Yale University, they published an article “Reparative effects of interleukin-1 receptor antagonist in young and aged/co-morbid rodents after cerebral ischemia” describing that IL-1Ra improves stroke outcome in both young and aged/co-morbid rats. It also not only increases stem cell proliferation but enhances the number of newly born neurons.

Their findings then further highlight the therapeutic potential of this clinically approved drug. Brain, Behavior and Immunity, Vol  61, March 2017 pages 117-126 ScienceDirect.com.

This study is a year old. The studies in this post travel thru time from 2014 to 2017. The next phase is to research studies to see if new information has been attained or even if some of the research using already approved interleukin has been approved for use in humans after suffering a stroke.

Thanks for stopping by.

Craig

Black and white hydride tea rose with water droplets on it's petals. Svetlana Manic 282267 Unsplash!
Svetlana Manic 282267 Unsplash!

 

 

 

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