Traumatic brain injury (TBI) often causes permanent physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioral impairments that prevent those who suffer it from returning to their previous quality of life. There are currently no effective treatments available to alleviate the disabling effects of trauma-induced deficits in attention, executive function, working memory, or processing speed.
In past studies, scientists have linked cognitive decline to loss of activity in key brain regions in the thalamus. The thalamus is located at the very center of the brain and is considered the brain center that controls sensations. It is responsible for transmitting sensory and motor information from the senses (except smell) to the corresponding areas.
Scientists recently conducted a small clinical trial to evaluate whether deep brain stimulation is feasible, safe, and can restore cognitive function in people with chronic disabilities after TBI. results published In the magazine Nature Medicine.
Deep brain stimulation is a neurosurgical method of controlled stimulation of specific targets in the brain using low-power electrical impulses to correct their functions. It is already used to improve symptoms in Parkinson’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, epilepsy and other pathologies.
The scientists selected four men and two women ranging in age from 22 to 60 years old. Each of them suffered a moderate to severe TBI that resulted in permanent neuropsychological impairment. From three to 18 years have passed since the injury. One participant was later suspended for not following protocol.
During the operation, specialists surgically implanted electrodes into specific areas of the thalamus. To do this, they used new neuroimaging techniques that helped predict neural circuits with impaired activation.
No side effects were found after the operation. But the effectiveness was immediately determined: the speed of information processing increased by 15-52% compared to the initial level, measured using a cognitive test for attention, mental flexibility, spatial and visual perception.
According to the authors, deep brain stimulation may actually improve brain function in people with chronic cognitive disability. However, larger clinical studies need to be conducted to put this method into practice.
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