New Non-Drug Approach to Improve Memory and Balance in Multiple Sclerosis
Although it is still in the study stage, investigators have developed and tested a new non-drug, non-invasive device that improved memory and balance in individuals with multiple sclerosis. The new device, called the Portable Neuromodulation Stimulator (PoNS™), delivers neurostimulation through the tongue.
A pilot study of PoNS was conducted by the developer, Helius Medical Technologies, in 14 individuals, seven of whom had active multiple sclerosis and the other seven who served as controls. The idea behind this device is that neurostimulation delivered to the tongue, a highly innervated organ that has a direct “line” to the brain via two cranial nerves (trigeminal and facial) to the brainstem.
Research has demonstrated that from the brain stem, the electrical impulses travel throughout the brain and activate neurons (brain cells) and structures that are involved in various functions. For individuals with multiple sclerosis, the focus is on areas that involve memory, gait, and balance.
If you are intrigued by this new device, which consists of a small, flat object that is placed in the mouth and a handheld control, you should know that it is still being evaluated. Experts at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital and Concordia University’s PERFORM Center are exploring the potential of this new approach to treatment for balance, memory, and gait problems associated with MS.
According to the investigators, the study participants with multiple sclerosis experienced a significant improvement in their balance after they had 14 weeks of treatment, and they also demonstrated brain function similar to that of individuals without the disease. An added bonus was that PoNS therapy was found to cause no side effects.
This study was also special because it was the first time investigators used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure the impact of PoNS while individuals performed specific tasks with and without stimulation. Based on the findings of the fMRI:
- The PoNS device seems to promote neural plasticity, which described how experiences reorganize the neural connections in the brain. Such changes occur when we learn something new or memorize new information.
- Use of the device resulted in a significant difference in brain function when compared with controls
- The PoNS device was associated with a significant improvement in balance
After evaluating the results of this study, the authors determined that an appropriate study size for a multiple sclerosis clinical trial study is 128 participants. Right now, the PoNS device is being tested in the United States for treatment of balance disorders in individuals who are living with mild to moderate traumatic brain injury.
If Helius can gain approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use of this device in balance disorders (and it has plans to file for FDA clearance), it may be a short road for approved use in patients with multiple sclerosis.
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Helius Medical Technologies
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