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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Could an electric shock to the TONGUE help MS patients to walk? Stimulating the muscle improves balance

  • Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison applied painless electrical impulses to MS patients’ tongues during a 14-week experiment
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition where communication between body and brain is disrupted, resulting in loss of muscle control
  • Experts found that treatment improved the balance of people with MS 
  • Treatment also doubled fluidity of movement compared to a control group




Electric shocks applied to the tongue (stock image pictured) could help treat the effects of multiple sclerosis (MS), allowing people with the disease to walk more easily


A team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, led by neuroscientist Yuri Danilov, applied the electrical impulses to the tongue as part of physical therapy sessions, for the 14-week duration of the trial, Scientific American reported. 
They discovered that their patients gained twice as much balance and fluidity of movement compared to people with MS who did the same physical therapy exercises without the new treatment. 

MS is a neurological condition that affects around 100,000 people in the UK. The disease causes the insulation around nerves to become damaged (illustrated), which disrupts communication between the body and brain, resulting in loss of muscle control
MS is a neurological condition that affects around 100,000 people in the UK. The disease causes the insulation around nerves to become damaged (illustrated), which disrupts communication between the body and brain, resulting in loss of muscle control



Dr Danilov explained in the Journal of Neuro-Engineering and Rehabilitation that nerves on the tip of the tongue are connected to the brain’s stem, which is a hub responsible for lots of the body’s basic processes.

It’s a good place to apply tiny electric shocks because saliva is an electrically conductive fluid, and stimulation can be applied at a much lower voltage than is required for skin.

Dr Danilov said: ‘We have probably discovered a new way for the neurorehabilitation of many neurological disorders.’
The team is also exploring whether tongue stimulation can be used to treat patients who are losing their sight, have had a stroke or suffer from Parkinson’s.

In a previous study, experts enabled a blind woman to see a flickering candle for the first time - via her tongue.
Researchers developed a tongue-stimulating system that translated images detected by a camera into a pattern of electric pulses that triggered touch receptors.




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