Kansas University Medical Centre researchers have created a microelectronic circuitry which can help rewire brain connections post trauma.
Pedram Mohseni, and Randolph J. Nudo are trying to guide the growth of axons in a brain damaged by an exploding bomb, car crash or stroke. They believe repeated communications between distant neurons in the weeks after injury may spark long-reaching axons to form and connect.
The study could be important for troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, who are victims of brain trauma despite improvements in helmets and armour. Brain damage includes loss of coordination, balance, mobility, memory and problem-solving skills, with soldiers suffering from mood swings, depression, anxiety, aggression, social inappropriateness and emotional outbursts.
"The month following injury is a window of opportunity. We believe we can do this with an injured brain, which is very malleable," Mohseni said.
A microchip on a circuit amplifies signals produced by the neurons in one part of the brain. It then sends a current pulse to stimulate neurons in another part of the brain, artificially connecting the two brain regions.
Nudo has been studying and mapping brain connectivity in a rat model and developing a traumatic brain injury model to test the device and the neuroanatomical rewiring theory.
If tests show the treatment is successful in helping recovery from traumatic brain injury, the researchers foresee the possibility of using the approach in patients 10 years from now.