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Whisker stimulation prevents strokes in rats, UCI study finds
Date:7/13/2010

can quickly clog, the alternate arteries expanded beyond their normal size, opening wide to allow critical blood flow to the brain. The technique was 100 percent effective in preventing strokes in rats with arterial obstruction.

UC San Diego neuroscientist David Kleinfeld, who has also studied brain structure and strokes, calls the results "unexpected and spectacular." Random stimulation of the rat whisker also worked, but timing was critical waiting three hours to do so led to major brain cell death.

Scientists have struggled for years to find ways of preventing strokes or minimizing their effects, which include slurred speech, paralysis and brain damage. One drug can help some patients but also often causes bleeding in the brain.

People believed to be suffering a stroke are currently told to lie still and stay calm in a quiet environment. Frostig says a good massage, listening to a song or otherwise stimulating the right nerve endings might work better.

Kleinfeld cautions that the rodent findings might not be relevant to humans. But with such clear evidence that strokes in rats were prevented, he says, "it would be criminal not to try" controlled human studies. That could be tricky, since it's not possible to predict when someone will have a stroke.

The UCI team which also includes graduate students Christopher Lay and Cynthia Chen-Bee would like to find physicians or emergency medical technicians willing to try the technique on patients with early stroke symptoms.

Signs of stroke include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in face or limbs, especially on one side
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden difficulty seeing or walking
  • Dizziness or loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause If you or someone you know experiences one or more of these symptoms, call 911. The first two hours are critical.


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Contact: Janet Wilson
janethw@uci.edu
949-824-3969
University of California - Irvine
Source:Eurekalert

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