Wearable brain stimulation could safely improve motor function after stroke

Research Highlights:

  • A new, non-invasive wearable magnetic device that stimulates the brain to rewire itself is safe and could improve recovery for stroke survivors.
  • The technology could be a step to help improve motor function after stroke.

Embargoed until 11 a.m. Pacific Time/ 2 p.m. Eastern Time, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 20, 2020 — A non-invasive, wearable, magnetic brain stimulation device could improve motor function in stroke patients, according to preliminary late breaking science presented today at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2020. The conference, Feb. 19-21 in Los Angeles, is a world premier meeting for researchers and clinicians dedicated to the science of stroke and brain health.

In an initial, randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled clinical trial of 30 chronic ischemic stroke survivors, a new wearable, multifocal, transcranial, rotating, permanent magnet stimulator, or TRPMS, produced significant increases in physiological brain activity in areas near the injured brain, as measured by functional MRI.

“The robustness of the increase in physiological brain activity was surprising. With only 30 subjects, a statistically significant change was seen in brain activity,” said lead study author David Chiu, M.D., director of the Eddy Scurlock Stroke Center at Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas. “If confirmed in a larger multicenter trial, the results would have enormous implications. This technology would be the first proven treatment for recovery of motor function after chronic ischemic stroke.”

Magnetic stimulation of the brain was previously investigated to promote recovery of motor function after stroke. The stimulation may change neural activity and induce reorganization of circuits in the brain. Researchers introduced a new wearable stimulator.

Stroke survivors who had weakness on one side of their body at least three months post-stroke were enrolled in a preliminary study to evaluate safety and efficacy of the device. Half of the patients were treated with brain stimulation administered in twenty 40-minute sessions over four weeks. The rest had sham, or mock, treatment. Researchers analyzed physiologic brain activity before, immediately after and one month after treatment.

They found that treatment was well tolerated, and there were no device-related complications. Active treatment produced significantly greater increases in brain activity: nearly 9 times higher than the sham treatment.

Although the study could not prove that the transcranial stimulator improved motor function, numerical improvements were demonstrated in five of six clinical scales of motor function, as measured by a functional MRI test. The scales measured gait velocity, grip strength, pinch strength, and other motor functions of the arm. The treatment effects persisted over a three-month follow-up.

The researchers believe the study results are a signal of possible improved clinical motor function after magnetic brain stimulation for patients after stroke, which will need to be confirmed in a larger, multicenter trial.

The trial was funded by a grant from the Houston Methodist Research Institute Translational Research Initiative and to Seraya Medical, LLC.  A multicenter trial sponsored by the technology patent holder to Seraya Medical LLC is currently planned.

Additional Resources:

Statements and conclusions of study authors that are presented at American Stroke Association scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect Association policy or position. The Association makes no representation or warranty as to their accuracy or reliability. The Association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific Association programs and events. The Association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at https://www.heart.org/en/about-us/aha-financial-information.

The American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference (ISC) is the world’s premier meeting dedicated to the science of stroke and brain health. ISC 2020 will be held February 19-21 at the Los Angeles Convention Center in California. The 2 ½-day conference features more than 1,600 compelling scientific presentations in 21 categories that emphasize basic, clinical and translational science for health care professionals and researchers. These science and other clinical presentations will provide attendees with a better understanding of stroke and brain health to help improve prevention, treatment and outcomes for the more than 800,000 Americans who have a stroke each year. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and a leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the U.S. Worldwide, cerebrovascular accidents (stroke) are the second leading cause of death and the third leading cause of disability, according to the World Health Organization. Engage in the International Stroke Conference on social media via #ISC20.

About the American Stroke Association

The American Stroke Association is a relentless force for a world with fewer strokes and longer, healthier lives. We team with millions of volunteers and donors to ensure equitable health and stroke care in all communities. We work to prevent, treat and beat stroke by funding innovative research, fighting for the public’s health, and providing lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based association was created in 1998 as a division of the American Heart Association. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-888-4STROKE or visit strokeassociation.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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For Media Inquiries and ASA Expert Perspective: 214-706-1173

Contact AHA Media Relations Staff at ahacommunications@heart.org

For Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721)

Feb. 19-21, 2020: AHA News Media Office, Los Angeles Convention Center: 213-743-6201

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