A drug used in Parkinson's disease also improves the paralysis experienced by stroke survivors.
Levodopa is turned into the neurotransmitter dopamine in the body, and this may help brain cells involved in controlling movement to function more normally. It's used as a treatment in Parkinson's disease, but a new trial suggests that levodopa is also helpful in alleviating stroke-induced disability.
Researchers at the Bad Aibling Neurological Hospital in Germany gave levodopa or placebo for three weeks to 53 patients paralysed after a stroke. They also received physiotherapy. After this time, the patients on levodopa had a larger improvement in their motor function. Then the drug was stopped and physiotherapy alone continued for another three weeks. At the end of this time, recovery of motor function was still better in the levodopa group.
Another recent trial has suggested that amphetamines, which boost levels of another neurotransmitter - noradrenaline (norepinephrine) - helps stroke survivors. Till now, physiotherapy has been the only treatment given for stroke-induced disability. The discovery of drugs that can enhance the recovery process is a very encouraging advance for stroke survivors and their carers.