Swiss Scientists Create a Wearable Device to Rewire the Brain to Speed Up Stroke Recovery

By: | April 24th, 2023

Image by Pixabay

A stroke is a life-threatening condition. After a stroke, part of your brain doesn’t have enough blood flow, which causes neurons in the brain to die off. Strokes are the primary cause of persistent physical impairment, reducing a person’s ability to perform everyday physical actions like walking or reaching for something.

VNS allows stroke patients to regain their movement faster and more effectively

Studies have found that Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) plays a crucial role in rehabilitating regions of the brain damaged by a stroke. VNS sends electrical impulses to the brain via the vagus nerve through a device that is similar to a pacemaker.

But this requires patients to undergo an expensive operation. Also, generally, a patient has to wait a full year after a stroke to carry out this procedure.

Now, ETH Zurich researchers have designed a system dubbed Smart VNS to help stroke patients recover faster. This simple-to-use system consists of an earpiece and a motion-tracking watch.

This technology does not require a surgical procedure

“Our earpiece emits subtle electrical impulses to activate the nerve in the outer ear, thus eliminating the need for a surgical procedure,” explains Paulius Viskaitis, co-developer of the system.

The watch tracks the movements of limbs, and when it senses a user successfully moving it, it instructs the earpiece to zap the nerve.  The idea is to train the brain where the electrical pulse strengthens the neural circuit that made that movement possible. Over time, the brain should get better at those movements.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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