Professor Souyma Ghosh and his colleagues at the Western Australian Neuroscience Research Institute will investigate the potential of an interesting new approach that combines computer aided rehabilitation techniques with magnetic brain stimulation to improve walking and balance in people with MS.
Falls are very common in people with MS and are known to occur early in the course of the disease. Falls can be the result of a range of different symptoms such as weakness and lack of coordination of the trunk and lower limbs, reduced sensation in the feet and legs, visual problems and thinking and attention problems. The combination of symptoms can vary in every individual, and as such, there may be a number of different approaches required to improve walking and balance in people with MS.
In this study, Professor Ghosh and his team will conduct a pilot clinical trial to improve walking and balance in MS patients using specialised training techniques involving a combination of computer-controlled robot-aided rehabilitation together with brain stimulation.
Participants will receive balance training using a computer controlled device known as the ‘balance master’ that provides objective assessment and retraining of the sensory and voluntary motor control of balance with visual bio-feedback. This training will be tested either with or without non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) using Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). This technique is increasingly being trialled around the world for enhancing brain plasticity after neural injury. Brain plasticity is the ability of the brain to form new connections between neurons to learn new tasks and compensate for the effects of damage. The project will investigate whether brain stimulation can further enhance the effects of balance training alone on walking ability and falls prevention.
This pilot study has tested whether Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, a type of non-invasive electrical brain stimulation, improves the balance and gait of people with MS.
Ten people with MS were given balance therapy either with or without electrical brain stimulation. Their walking and balance were measured both at the completion of the six weeks treatment regime and six months later. All participants showed improvement in balance and walking after the treatment. Those who had received brain stimulation on top of their balance therapy tended to have greater improvement in their gait and balance, than those who didn't receive any brain stimulation.
Based on these promising results Professor Ghosh and his team are now planning a clinical trial in a larger number of people to confirm the benefits of non-invasive brain stimulation in improving balance and gait in people with MS. This could lead to a non-invasive treatment option to improve balance and walking.
Updated: 26 May 2016
Updated: 03 January, 2014