Belfast Telegraph

Paralysed stroke patients offered new hope

Researchers in Belfast are investigating a groundbreaking new technique to help stroke survivors regain the use of disabled limbs.

Previous studies have indicated that the brain has the capacity to rewire itself to cope with damage and now psychologists at Queen’s University Belfast are hoping to develop this to help stroke survivors and others who have suffered brain damage.

They are hoping to show that non-invasive stimulation of the brain, coupled with contractions of the muscles of the unimpaired arm, will assist the recovery of movement in the affected limb.

The project, which has been funded to the tune of £45,000 by Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke has the potential to transform the recovery of stroke survivors and others who have suffered brain damage.

The research team is now recruiting people to participate in the project, which they hope will lead to the development of a therapy to help stroke survivors regain their independence. Professor Richard Carson, who is heading up the research, explained: “The project is designed to promote recovery and the movement function in the arms of stroke survivors, which reflects the fact that more than 50% of people who have strokes will be left with some level of damage of function in their arms.”

Steven Weir from Bangor was just 53-years-old when he suffered a stroke and four years on he is still dealing with the aftermath.

“I was in hospital with a chest infection and pneumonia and I was looking in my bag for my mobile and I remember hitting my head on the floor,” he said.

“The next thing I remember was coming out of the MRI scanner and them telling me I had taken a severe stroke. I’m severely impaired on my left side. I can’t walk too well and my left arm doesn’t work at all.

“I have had three sessions at Queen’s and I feel it is helping me a lot. The stroke was a life- changing experience but this research has been brilliant. I can’t explain how I feel when the stimulation goes through my arm and I feel my arm and the tips of my fingers working again.”

Professor Carson said: “Steven is a classic example of someone with reasonably severe impairment of an arm and it makes it very difficult for him to perform daily activities, such as getting dressed, which allow people to be independent.

“What we are trying to do is get to the point where people can be independent so they are not relying on people coming into their home to help them.

“Not only will that free up resources in the health service but there are also psychological implications for people who lose their independence in such a way.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about participating in the project can email r.g.carson@qub.ac.uk.

Belfast Telegraph

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