Medics from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
have demonstrated for the first time how deep brain stimulation, focused at a specific brain target, can help those with with severe disabilities arising from traumatic brain injuries.
Traumatic (or chronic) brain injury
occurs when an external force traumatically injures the brain (one connection is with the injuries sustained by American football players).Causes include
falls, vehicle accidents, and violence. The resultant brain trauma occurs as a consequence of a focal impact upon the head; or by a sudden acceleration/deceleration within the cranium; or by a complex combination of both movement and sudden impact.
Deep brain stimulation
is a neurosurgical procedure involving the implantation of a medical device called a neurostimulator, which sends electrical impulses, through implanted electrodes, to specific targets in the brain for the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders.
With the new method, deep brain simulation was applied to the nucleus accumbens
(a region in the basal forebrain rostral) of four patients who had suffered severe disabling traumatic brain injury from automobile crashes six to 21 years earlier.
The results showed that two years following deep brain simulation, three of the four participants demonstrated behavioral and emotional improvements and substantial gains in functional independence in self-care and activities of daily living. Although the research was based on a small study the findings are encouraging enough for further studies to proceed.
Commenting on the new study, lead researcher Dr. Ali Rezai said: "The results of this study show that deep brain simulation can significantly improve function in patients who have been impaired for up to 21 years from their initial traumatic brain injury. We are excited about this study as it provides hope for future research to help patients and families affected by traumatic brain injury."
The research has been published in
the journal Neurosurgery
. The research paper is titled "Improved Function After Deep Brain Stimulation for Chronic, Severe Traumatic Brain Injury."
In related news, while severe brain trauma is the main concern, a new study of children and adolescents who experience milder forms of chronic brain injury (including concussion) may have reduced longevity and significant psychosocial problems in adulthood (see: "Long-Term Outcomes Associated with Traumatic Brain Injury in Childhood and Adolescence: A Nationwide Swedish Cohort Study of a Wide Range of Medical and Social Outcomes", published in PLOS Medicine