Small Clinical Trial Shows Deep Brain Stimulation Improves Cognition in Traumatic Brain Injury Patients
A recent clinical trial has demonstrated that deep brain stimulation (DBS) can significantly enhance cognition in individuals with traumatic brain injuries (TBI). The study, published in Nature Medicine, revealed that participants experienced notable improvements in processing speed after receiving DBS implants.
Traumatic brain injuries often result in cognitive difficulties for those affected, as neurons perish and brain circuits disconnect. Recognizing the potential of DBS to restore connections among damaged neurons and improve cognitive functioning in people with medium to severe TBI (msTBI), researchers targeted key parts of the thalamus, a brain structure responsible for attention and decision-making.
The trial involved four men and one woman who had suffered from msTBI for a minimum of two years. To deliver DBS, the participants underwent surgical procedures to implant electrodes near the lateral side of the thalamus in both brain hemispheres. The researchers then customized the stimulation parameters for each individual over a 14-day period.
For three months following surgery, participants received electrical current stimulation for 12 hours each day. Cognitive functioning was evaluated using a task that assessed task switching, attention, and working memory. The results were remarkable, with participants achieving an average improvement of 30.7% in the attention task and a 32% increase in speed when completing the cognitive test.
Although these findings represent a significant milestone, the research team intends to build upon their work by conducting larger trials. Additionally, they hope to develop a reliable protocol that can be implemented by other medical centers to deliver this promising treatment.
This groundbreaking study offers hope for individuals with traumatic brain injuries, who often face substantial cognitive challenges. If further research supports these findings, DBS could potentially become a widely utilized method to enhance cognitive functioning in those affected by msTBI.
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