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Applying an electric current to the brain can help recovery from stroke, Oxford University researchers have found.

A healthy volunteer demonstrates Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation © John Cairns
A healthy volunteer demonstrates Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation

A team led by Professor Heidi Johansen-Berg and Dr Charlotte Stagg studied the use of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to support rehabilitation training. The technique involves placing electrodes on the scalp to pass a constant low current through a particular area of the brain.

In this case, the team used a variant called ipsilesional anodal tDCS, where a positive (anodal) current is applied on the side of the brain where damage has occurred. Anodal stimulation has previously been shown to increase the learning of motor skills in healthy people. The hope was that this effect could also be demonstrated in stroke patients, using tDCS to reinforce training that helps patients relearn how to use their body.

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