Scientists have invented a device to restore senses of stroke survivors
Scientists at the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom have created a device to help stroke survivors regain their senses.
Researchers developed a touchpad device that sends tiny vibrations to the fingertips, causing brain cells to fire and restoring sensation to affected limbs, The Independent reported on Wednesday.
This could greatly improve the quality of life for millions of stroke survivors, according to the experts.
“Improvement in touch sensation should lead to them being able to sense that they are holding hands," said Dr. Amit Pujari in the British Science Festival, biomedical engineer and neuroscientist and the developer of the device.
The study has not yet been peer-reviewed.
The device sends vibrations to the fingertips in the form of "random noise," rather than regular frequency patterns. According to Pujari, doing so "makes the network of nerves damaged by stroke more sensitive to normal touch sensations."
These vibrations are incredibly gentle, unnoticeable to persons with normal touch sensitivity, and difficult to perceive for stroke sufferers.
The study was funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering and other public research organizations.
15 million people suffer from stroke annually
Stroke has a high mortality rate. Survivors may experience vision and/or speech loss, paralysis, and confusion. According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), 15 million people worldwide suffer from a stroke. Five million of these people die, and another 5 million are permanently disabled, putting a strain on family and community.
Scientists have known for about 20 years that vibration therapy has potential as a stroke treatment, according to Dr. Amit Pujari.
But Pujari said that “because of the technical problems and unknowns about the neuroscience, there is nothing available on the market to exploit the idea so that it can be given to patients in their homes or NHS clinics”.
Trials are being planned
Pujari reported that the outcomes had been encouraging and would shortly be published in scholarly journals. To determine how long using the device provides benefits, other trials are being planned.
The engineers are also considering ways to make it smaller. According to Pujari, it could be made to cost no more than a few hundred pounds and shrink in size to a small box.
As a result, patients' residences or general practitioners would be able to offer vibration treatment.
What are the stroke risk factors?
The two most modifiable hazards are high blood pressure and tobacco smoking.
Four stroke victims out of every ten who pass away could have been rescued if their blood pressure had been controlled. Two-fifths of stroke deaths in people under the age of 65 can be attributed to smoking, according to WHO.
Other significant risk factors include heart attack, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation.
In many industrialized nations, there is a decrease in the frequency of stroke, mostly due to better blood pressure management and smoking cessation. However, due to the aging population, the absolute number of strokes is rising.