Stroke therapy to perceive half of the body

Stroke therapy to perceive half of the body

New stroke therapy to better perceive left side of the body

Scientists at Saarland University have developed a new therapy for stroke patients who suffer from a so-called visual-spatial neglect. Those affected no longer fully perceive their left half of the body as a result of the stroke, so that, for example, they do not look to the left when crossing a street, often hit objects with the left side of the body and neglect them during personal hygiene. With the new therapy process, the equilibrium system is stimulated with light current surges. According to the researchers, Neglect patients can now perceive their left side of the body better.

Many patients no longer notice their left half of the body as a result of the stroke In Germany, more than 250,000 people suffer a stroke each year. Often, those affected have to deal with the consequences for life. Some patients suffer from the visual-spatial neglect, by which they neglect everything that happens in the left side of the body of vision. "Above all, patients whose right brain is damaged often suffer from neglecting their left side of the body," explains Georg Kerkhoff, Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology and Head of the Neuropsychological University Outpatient Clinic at Saarland University. "Despite new and more effective treatment methods, the chances of recovery are still unfavorable."

In order to be able to treat those affected better, the Saarbrücken researchers developed a new type of therapy as part of their study, which stimulates the patient's balance system. To do this, small electrodes are placed behind the ears of those affected, via which weak electrical impulses are emitted. “There are no side effects with this procedure. The patients don't even feel the stimuli because we stimulate below the perception threshold, ”reports Stefan Reinhart, a doctor of psychology in Kerkhoff's team. With other therapy methods, patients often suffer from unpleasant side effects such as dizziness and nystagmus (uncontrollable, rhythmic movements of an organ, e.g. the eyes).

New therapy after stroke could significantly improve patients' quality of life The so-called galvanic vestibular stimulation (GVS) was very successful in the study. A total of 24 stroke patients, half of whom suffered from the left-sided neglect, participated in the examination. As part of the study, they had to solve four tasks, in particular to test their visual and spatial skills. For example, participants should draw predetermined pictures of objects, search for numbers on a screen, find the center of a horizontal line and write a short text. In order to be able to rule out placebo effects, the tasks were completed once during GVS treatment and again without electrical impulses. However, the study participants knew nothing of the sham simulation.

"The GVS effects were only found in the impaired, but not in the unaffected patient group," the researchers report in the renowned journal "Neuropsychologia", where they published their results. "During the stimulation, the participants showed one compared to the sham stimulation performance improved by 30 to 50 percent in the various tasks, "explains Reinhart. "In the future, Neglect patients could benefit from this method in terms of their quality of life. The results of the researchers are also interesting for science because they demonstrate the connection between the equilibrium system and spatial attention. (ag)

Image: Harald Wanetschka /

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Video: Stroke Therapy at Helen Hayes Hospital for Impaired Vision