concerned, it involves customized stimulation of the tongue, which activates parts of the brain, along with specific occupational/physical therapy. It's enabled some (MS) patients to regain motor functions like walking, balance, singing, etc. The film clip shows a woman with MS who experienced dramatic improvements in walking.
I found a newspaper article from Dec. 2009 on it - hope this doesn't also crash your computer: http://www.rrstar.com/top_stories/x1145 ... d-patients
Some excerpts from the article:
"Its aim is to restore functions lost to multiple sclerosis by improving the brain’s ability to reorganize its activity and allow the patient to regain muscle control.
The treatment involves sending electrical stimulation to the patient’s brain through an electrode-covered oral device called a PoNS, which is held on the tongue, and a set of customized physical and occupational therapy exercises.
University of Wisconsin engineer and scientist Kurt Kaczmarek, PH.D., who conducts the project with biomedical engineer Mitchell Tyler and neuroscientist Dr. Yuri Danilov, said the research deals with the concept of neuroplasticity, the idea that the brain can reorganize its functions in response to learning or experience. The UW project was started in 1983 by the late Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita, who had been conducting studies of sensory substitution since the 1960s to determine whether the brain, deprived of one sense, could learn to use other senses to compensate for or replace the lost sense.
The PoNS device provides a customized electrical stimulus to the tongue. The stimulus is optimized to maximize the brain’s ability to recover function lost to injury or disease when combined with the special exercises. Kaczmarek said the optimal time for using the stimulation training is “a couple of times a day for 20 to 35 minutes at a time.
“We discovered early on,” he said, “that if someone uses the system for a few minutes, they will have a pretty good remedial time of reduction of symptoms. Longer use results in longer beneficial effect. It is likely that some users may progress to near-normal function after weeks, months, or years of dedicated PoNS device use in conjunction with the exercises, but this prediction is extrapolated from our earlier research.”
"Tyler, whose own balance issues because of an ear infection in 2000 changed the direction of the research from vision applications for balance, said the project has been more successful than anticipated.
“We believe we have tapped into a way to encourage the brain to heal itself,” Tyler said. “We have pretty good evidence that we encourage the brain to recover normal function whether the reason for the disruption is traumatic, neurodegenerative or developmental.”
The research also has explored applications for Parkinson’s disease, stroke, traumatic brain injury with promising results and the project’s scientists believe treatment of autism, arterial lateral sclerosis, cerebral palsy and other neurological disorders may be possible."
"Kaczmarek said that after their two-week sessions in the lab, all of the multiple sclerosis subjects in the study showed improvements in sensory organization, balance, posture, gait and neural function as well as in physical, cognitive and psychological abilities.
Partnership for Cures gave the pilot project a $54,000 grant, and donated an additional $2,000 to the project lab’s account at the University of Wisconsin Foundation. An anonymous donor gave $394,000 to the UW Foundation account, which is funding the ongoing work at the lab. Partnership for Cures spoke in favor of the work at the lab when the anonymous donation was being considered.
Husmann, Provenzano and Brandes all are involved in trying to raise money to continue the project, which to date has been self-supporting through grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the University of Wisconsin Foundation and Partnership for Cures.
Despite its success, Kaczmarek said, the project is unable to accept more subjects, and without further funding, probably won’t survive past next summer."
concerned, I don't know the project's current status. Haven't read up on this yet, but I'm familiar with the concept of brain neuroplasticity, and I'm guessing that the technique may enable the brain to find alternate routes (bypassing damaged or dead neurons) to perform various functions. I hope the researchers find more funding!