Recent research suggests that some stroke survivors who have poor comprehension of words and pictures also have difficulty focussing and recalling information and knowledge. This project seeks to use training and a safe and easy way of electrically stimulating the brain to improve recall.
A very weak electrical current will be passed through the scalp. This will encourage brain cells in the stimulated area to activate. When carried out with cognitive training, the treatment will help the brain to reorganise functions, and help the person make a better recovery. The project will (i) establish if electrical stimulation can improve comprehension following stroke; (ii) determine the best protocols and sites for stimulation; (iii) investigate whether stimulation is more effective when combined with cognitive training; (iv) examine if improvements in performance transfer to untrained tasks and (v) conduct a long-term follow up of the effects of electrical stimulation, over six months. We will acquire MRI scans of volunteers’ brains, allowing us to stimulate intact brain areas in each participant. We will also explore the relationship between brain injury and poor mental control over conceptual processing and non-verbal decisions, extending our previous research. This will determine which patients may be most likely to benefit from electrical stimulation.
The electrical stimulation technique is portable, safe, inexpensive and easy to use. We anticipate that this research could have a substantial impact in the longer-term by providing a valuable rehabilitation tool for chronic comprehension deficits, which will affect more and more people as the population ages. The technique could ultimately be used by speech and language therapists, or by stroke survivors themselves, to optimise recovery.