Stimulation of Brain Activity and Recovery of Function after Stroke

Stroke is the third leading cause of death and the most common cause of adult disability in Canada and worldwide. Nearly half of all people with stroke do not have full use of their arms for daily tasks and seek rehabilitation to help restore their function. Recent discoveries have targeted effective treatments for individuals who are still able to move their wrist and fingers after stroke, but there are currently few therapies for individuals with poorer hand movement ability.

Dr. Lara Boyd is exploring whether learning and recovery of function can be enhanced by pairing direct stimulation of the brain with practice of a new motor task. Her research focuses on two areas: testing whether exciting the brain using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) before practicing a new motor skill will promote faster learning and recovery of former motor function; and determining the effect of stroke severity on motor learning. Boyd expects that pairing brain stimulation and practice will help people with stroke learn new motor skills faster and more effectively than when brain stimulation is not delivered. This research may lead to new therapies to help people with stroke return to their regular activities of daily life. Brain stimulation using TMS may specifically offer an effective treatment for people with poor hand and arm function after stroke.