Researchers from the University of California San Diego and from the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System have improved neural function in a group of people with mild traumatic brain injury using low-impulse electrical stimulation to the brain, according to a study published in Brain Injury.
Although little is understood about the pathology of mild TBI, the team of researchers noted that previous work has shown that passive neuro-feedback, low-intensity pulses applied to the brain through transcranial electrical stimulation, has promise as a potential treatment.
The team’s pilot study enrolled six people with mild TBI who were experiencing post-concussion symptoms. Researchers used a form of LIP-tES combined with concurrent electroencephalography monitoring and assessed the treatment’s effect using a non-invasive functional imaging technique, magnetoencephalography, before and after treatment.
“Our previous publications have shown that MEG detection of abnormal brain slow-waves is one of the most sensitive biomarkers for mild traumatic brain injury (concussions), with about 85 percent sensitivity in detecting concussions and, essentially, no false-positives in normal patients,” senior author Dr. Roland Lee said in prepared remarks. “This makes it an ideal technique to monitor the effects of concussion treatments such as LIP-tES.”
Researchers reported that the brains in all six patients had abnormal slow-waves at the time of initial scans. After treatment, MEG scans showed reduced abnormal slow-waves and the study participants reported a significant reduction in post-concussion scores.
“For the first time, we’ve been able to document with neuroimaging the effects of LIP-tES treatment on brain functioning in mild TBI,” first author Ming-Xiong Huang added. “It’s a small study, which certainly must be expanded, but it suggests new potential for effectively speeding the healing process in mild traumatic brain injuries.”