Can neurotechology strike out Lou Gehrig’s disease?

It is May and typically baseball season is in full swing. This month we are not going to dive into the intricacies of the sport but we will focus on the disease named after a famous baseball player, Lou Gehrig. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disease that attacks the human nervous system. It is also be referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease named after Henry Louis Gehrig who was a famous baseball player for the New York Yankees. He played 17 seasons in the major league starting in 1923 and sadly ended in 1939 when he voluntarily took himself off the field when the disease hindered his performance as an athlete.

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  • Eyefree Assisting Communications Ltd has completed a safety and feasibility clinical trial testing their EyeControl device which uses an eye movement-based communication device in the form of wearable glasses with connected infrared cameras that tracks the pupil and translates blinks and movements into commands.
  • Researcher is Brescia, Italy have been investigating the use of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to help with symptoms associated with ALS. In a recently completed randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled study (tDCS_MND), the investigators evaluated whether a two-weeks’ treatment with bilateral motor cortex anodal tDCS and spinal cathodal tDCS can improve symptoms in people living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and modulate intracortical connectivity, at short and long terms.
  • Another pilot study in Ulm, Germany is investigating Pharyngeal Electrical Stimulation (PES) for the treatment of dysphagia (swallowing deficit) associated with ALS. In the study, electrical stimuli are applied at the pharynx via a nasogastral tube with the aim of triggering reorganization processes in damaged brain structures. There is evidence of positive effects in people who are stroke survivors and those living with multiple sclerosis. They are investigating the use of this technology for those with ALS.
  • ALS causes degeneration of motor neurons in both the brain and the spinal cord. Investigators at the VA medical center in Bronx, NY are developing an innovative method of using noninvasive cervical (neck) electrical stimulation (CES) and its potential to strengthen nerve circuits to facilitate active arm and hand movements for those living with ALS. Evidence from other studies of people with spinal cord injury suggests that activating spared nerve circuits with electromagnetic stimulation improves nerve transmission.
  • Researchers at the University of Roma are investigating the use of neuromuscular magnetic stimulation to improve muscle function in people living with spinal-onset ALS. NMMS can be used to combat muscle atrophy by counteracting muscle catabolism.

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