Posted on December 6th, 2010
Researchers in Boston announced this week that they are experimenting with a noninvasive imaging technique to detect chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a debilitating condition caused by repeated concussions. The condition most commonly affects former athletes and until now has been detected only by autopsy.
The study involves five retired athletes — three NFL players, a boxer and a wrestler — and is being acknowledged as a preliminary first step toward diagnosis and treatment. Suspicious levels of certain chemicals were found in the former athletes’ brains when researchers performed ‘virtual biopsies’ on them: specialized types of MRI scans that measure biochemical abnormalities. Such chemical alterations were not found in the brains of five healthy study participants.
While there is currently no treatment for CTE, this virtual biopsy technique could provide researchers the ability to create and test medications that could lessen the negative effects of the condition. “The only way we can get to the point of studying potential treatments is to be able to diagnose it during life,” said Robert Stern, a study co-author and a director of the Boston University center studying CTE, in an interview with the Associated Press. The study, therefore, is of great significance to CTE sufferers and the medical community alike.
Posted on March 18th, 2010
Originally developed to help deep-sea divers suffering from brain compression illness, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is now being tested for the treatment of traumatic brain injury victims. The study, sponsored by the International Hyperbaric Medical Foundation, will take place among fifteen sites throughout the United States and will involve almost 1,000 patients. Everyone involved will be treated 80 times over a period of five months.
So what is HBOT? It’s quite simple, really. It involves breathing 100% oxygen while under increased atmospheric pressure in an enclosed space. This pure oxygen, in turn, increases the amount of oxygen in one’s bloodstream and therefore traveling to one’s bodily organs and tissues. A preliminary study undertaken at the LSU Interim Public Hospital in New Orleans showed a “15-point increase in IQ in little more than a month, great reduction in depression, four times the expected improvements in … headaches and sleep disturbances, and great improvements in post-traumatic stress disorder” among the 40 patients involved. Though all 40 of these men and women were veterans who had sustained TBI’s at war, both veteran and civilian citizens will be recruited for the upcoming larger-scale study.
For more information or to see if you are eligible to participate, click here.
Posted on March 8th, 2010
Over the years, studies have surfaced regarding the possibility of robotic assistance in the recovery and rehabilitation processes of brain injury sufferers. In 2000, doctors and scientists performed a study based at Cornell University Medical College where motor performance was gauged in stroke and TBI victims both with and without robotic assistance. Both functional activity and motor performance were found to have improved more dramatically in those patients who received “robot-delivered sensorimotor training” than in those who did not.
Four years later, a University of California at Irvine study found similar results: “Robots can haptically assess sensorimotor performance, administer training, quantify amount of training, and improve motor recovery,” the study’s abstract reads. “In addition to providing insight into motor control, robotic paradigms may eventually enhance motor learning and rehabilitation beyond the levels possible with conventional training techniques.”
Now just may be that time. Neville Hogan, a professor of mechanical engineering and brain and cognitive sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, spoke on the subject last week at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. An article on the speech and subject explains the process in this way: “[Robotic] devices for a patient’s arm, shoulder, wrist or hand [are attached] to a machine and computer screen. As patients try to manipulate images on the computer screen, the robot senses what they are trying to do and helps them if needed…The robot repeats the movement so the brain relearns how it is supposed to send signals to the arm or hand.” In sum, the robots are helping stroke and traumatic brain injury sufferers to relearn the basic motor processes that the conditions have impaired in the hopes of improving motor performance to the point that it meets performance standards prior to injury.
Though it has not yet and may not ever replace human-delivered therapy, robotics as a rehabilitation tool deliver recovery assistance that is undoubtedly beneficial.
Posted on March 3rd, 2010
First developed in the 1960s by Swedish neurosurgery professor and physician Lars Leksell, radiosurgery is a treatment that delivers a single dose of gamma radiation to an infected or ailing area of the brain with surgical precision. Also called Gamma Knife surgery, the procedure is safe, effective, and entirely non-invasive.
Gamma Knife technology
“The Gamma Knife is not a knife at all,” a page on John Hopkins’ website explains, “but a radiosurgery device that enables doctors to treat deep-seated intracranial lesions without the risks of open-skull surgery. Hundreds of precisely targeted beams of cobalt gamma radiation converge on a single point to painlessly ‘cut’ through brain tumors, blood vessel malformations, and other brain abnormalities. This leading edge technology makes it possible for physicians to reach even the deepest recesses of the brain and correct disorders not treatable with conventional surgery.”
Benign and malignant brain tumors, vascular disorders (like bran aneurysms), and functional disorders (like epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease) are among the conditions that are eligible to be considered for Gamma Knife surgery.
The procedure is now offered at Charleston’s own Medical University of South Carolina. For more information, click here.