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New research opens possibilities for help with brain injuries

The complexities of the human tongue are often taken for granted. In fact, scientists have recently discovered a possible link between the tongue and the brain, which could provide treatment options for Wisconsin residents afflicted by a variety of ailments and conditions, including brain injuries.

The tongue responds well to electrical stimulation because of the number of receptors located on its surface. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have documented the response of the tongue to electrode signals. They use a control box to stimulate the tongues of test subjects for 20 to 30 minutes and monitor the response to a variety of exercises. The exercises differ depending on the placement of electrodes on the tongue. In a phenomenon known as plasticity, the brain can learn to develop new pathways, which means it can compensate for damaged brain areas and learn to overcome afflictions.

So far, the treatment has shown improvements of about 50 percent in multiple sclerosis patients in several areas, such as posture, walking and the effect of M.S. as felt by the patient. In addition, patients have seen 30 percent less fatigue after the treatment. One woman with M.S. even went for a jog after treatment, which not only slows loss of function but helps patients regain lost skills. The U.S. Army plans to look into the implications of this technology for those who are struggling with different types of brain injuries.

Patients who have suffered a brain injury could benefit from advances in research. A personal injury attorney might be able to help clients win a fair and just settlement if another party was liable for their catastrophic brain injuries so that they can take advantage of new treatments and regain some of their former quality of life.

Source: McAlester News-Capital, "Can nerve endings in the tongue help us treat traumatic brain injury?," Jason Bittel, Feb. 28, 2013

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