Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can be caused by a car accident while traveling on an Illinois highway or after falling on an icy parking lot. They can also be caused by a direct blow to the head such as being punched in the face or getting hit by a baseball or other hard object. New research suggests that electrical stimulation may be able to improve outcomes for those with moderate or severe TBIs.
The initial study included five patients who had long-term impairment caused by a TBI and were injured anywhere from three to 18 years ago. According to results published in Nature Medicine, using an electrode to stimulate brain activity caused a 52% improvement in their ability to process information.
The electrodes were surgically planted in the central lateral nucleus, which is located in the thalamus. This part of the brain is responsible for helping a person learn and remember information. Researchers would stimulate this part of the brain using the electrodes for 12 hours a day for a period of three months.
More information is needed
Researchers agree that more information will be needed before knowing if this new technique is appropriate for a wider set of patients with traumatic brain injuries. However, according to the lead author, the study was designed to provide a proof of concept as well as to rule out any possible safety issues associated with the technique itself.
The lead author also acknowledged that more evidence is needed to show that patients will experience an improvement in quality of life. For now, the data only shows that patients did better on cognitive tests compared to before they received the brain stimulation.