By Pat Hagan for the Daily Mail
Published: 22:38 GMT, 2 December 2019 | Updated: 22:38 GMT, 2 December 2019
A device that ‘tickles’ a nerve in the ears could help patients recover from a stroke.
The gadget works by transmitting mild electric currents through the skin, via clips fixed to both ears. This stimulates a nerve connected to the brain that is thought to boost neuroplasticity — the process by which the brain forms new connections between cells in response to an injury, such as a stroke.
A recent small British trial is one of several studies that have found wearing the ear clips while doing rehabilitation exercises can improve a patient’s recovery.
The majority of strokes — 85 per cent — are ischaemic, meaning they result from a clot blocking the blood supply to the brain.
The gadget transmits mild electric currents through skin via clips in both ears to stimulate new connections to form inside the brain (Stock image)
The rest are haemorrhagic strokes, caused by a burst blood vessel in the brain. Both can damage parts of the brain that control movement, and six months after a stroke around 50 per cent of survivors need help with everyday tasks such as eating, dressing and going to the loo.
Although brain cells cannot regenerate, the brain can be trained to find new ways of getting messages to the arms and legs.
It does this by recruiting undamaged nerve cells to set up new ‘pathways’ through which instructions can be passed.
But to do this requires prolonged intensive physiotherapy. It can