Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rewiring The Damaged Brain

April 6, 2000
Adelaide University
A study by Adelaide University scientists suggesting that the brain can be 'rewired' could lead to a new therapy for stroke victims. The study shows that healthy brain areas may be recruited to take over the functions of areas damaged by stroke or trauma.

Observations of patients who suffer stroke or brain injury and regain only limited function had led to a view of the brain as ‘hard wired,’ with neural circuits laid down by puberty and remaining unchanged thereafter.

Related Articles

Among other things, the brain’s cortex controls voluntary movement, speech and reasoning. Research now suggests that neural connections of the cortex are not fixed, but continuously modified by experience and learning.

Earlier studies have revealed that practising a simple finger movement can change the size of the area of motor cortex that controls specific finger muscles, and even alter its neural connections.

In blind Braille readers, the cortical area for the reading finger is much larger than for a non-reading finger. Amputees show the reverse effect; cortical areas of missing muscles being taken over by those that are unaffected.

In a study published in Experimental Brain Research, researchers from the Department of Physiology at Adelaide University have discovered that stimulating the nerve from a muscle to the brain can alter the size of responses from the area of cortex that supplies the muscle. Furthermore, these changes last for some time after the stimulation has stopped.

"Our findings are quite exciting as they have implications for understanding phenomena such as skill learning and motor memory" said Dr. Mike Ridding, a Florey Postdoctoral Fellow and lead investigator on the study, "It also suggests new directions for developing potential therapeutic approaches to disordered brain function in such debilitating conditions as stroke."

Many stroke victims have difficulty with even simple tasks because of muscle weakness or unwanted muscle contractions that make co-ordinated movement almost impossible. In most instances the muscles and nerves themselves are fine, but their connections to the cortex have been damaged. The study’s findings suggest that it may be possible in the future to by-pass the damaged brain area.

In the study, electronic coils were used to stimulate the cerebral cortex and then measure changes in its activity produced by stimulation of nerves from the fingers. Differently shaped coils have been designed to produce different patterns of stimulation. Held close to a subject’s head, they are non-invasive and painless.

"By developing a method of stimulating the pathways leading back to the brain from the affected muscles, we may be able to encourage the development and use of an alternative cortical area to that damaged by the stroke." said Dr. Ridding, "If we could achieve this, it would be a big step towards enabling patients to regain at least some of the movement control they lost as a result of their stroke."

The other authors of the study are Associate Professor Tim Miles and PhD student, Julia Pitcher, both of the Sensorimotor Control Group, Dr. Brenda Brouwer, Visiting Research Fellow from Queen’s University, Canada, and Professor of Neurology, Department of Medicine, Phillip Thompson.

Along with Dr Tim Miles and Professor Thompson, Dr. Ridding is now pursuing the nature of these motor cortex changes, while Julia Pitcher is examining the changes in motor cortex excitability that occur when a muscle is fatigued. Muscle fatigue and weakness are symptoms common to a number of motor control disorders, including stroke.

Dr Ridding believes that the effect may involve a protein that modifies synaptic efficiency in the brain. "Together with the results of Julia’s fatigue studies, we should gain some insight into how we might manipulate the mechanisms to assist people with movement disorders regain more motor control," he said.

3 Photographs available at http://www.adelaide.edu.au/PR/media_photos

Contacts: Dr. Tim Miles; Phone (618) 8303 5108; (618) 8303 5328; AH (618) 8272 1253 Email: tim.miles@adelaide.edu.au

Dr Michael Ridding; Phone (618) 8303 5108; Email: michael.ridding@adelaide.edu.au

Ms Julia Pitcher; Phone (618) 8303 5108; Email: julia.pitcher@adelaide.edu.au

Rob Morrison,Media Unit, Adelaide University; ph: (618) 8303 3490; fax: (618) 8303 4838; email: rob.morrison@adelaide.edu.au

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Adelaide University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This Page:

Adelaide University. "Rewiring The Damaged Brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 April 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/04/000405230348.htm>.
Adelaide University. (2000, April 6). Rewiring The Damaged Brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/04/000405230348.htm
Adelaide University. "Rewiring The Damaged Brain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/04/000405230348.htm (accessed April 20, 2015).

Share This

More From ScienceDaily

More Mind & Brain News

Monday, April 20, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Our Love Of Puppy Dog Eyes Explained By Science

Our Love Of Puppy Dog Eyes Explained By Science

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2015) Researchers found a spike in oxytocin occurs in both humans and dogs when they gaze into each other&apos;s eyes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Find Link Between Gestational Diabetes And Autism

Scientists Find Link Between Gestational Diabetes And Autism

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2015) Researchers who analyzed data from over 300,000 kids and their mothers say they&apos;ve found a link between gestational diabetes and autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Video Messages Help Reassure Dementia Patients

Video Messages Help Reassure Dementia Patients

AP (Apr. 17, 2015) Family members are prerecording messages as part of a unique pilot program at the Hebrew Home in New York. The videos are trying to help victims of Alzheimer&apos;s disease and other forms of dementia break through the morning fog of forgetfulness. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Common Pain Reliever Might Dull Your Emotions

Common Pain Reliever Might Dull Your Emotions

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2015) Each week, millions of Americans take acetaminophen to dull minor aches and pains. Now researchers say it might blunt life&apos;s highs and lows, too. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.


Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News


Free Subscriptions

Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile

Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?

Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins