A new medical device developed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows promise in helping people who have suffered Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
The treatment uses a battery-operated appliance placed on the patient’s tongue that sends electronic impulses to the brain. In early tests, the device helps to restore lost brain function.
Known as “PoNS,” the oral electrode was designed in collaboration with the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a term that describes damage to the brain that results in the loss of motor skills or nerve function. TBI can occur when a violent shaking of the brain causes it to come in contact with the inside of the skull – such as in a motor vehicle accident or other sudden impact.
The treatment involves sending specially-patterned nerve impulses to a patient’s brain through an electrode-covered oral device called a “PoNS,” a battery-operated appliance placed on the tongue. The 20-30 minute stimulation therapy, called cranial nerve non-invasive neuromodulation, or CN-NiNM, is accompanied with a custom set of physical, occupational, and cognitive exercises, based on the patient’s deficits. The idea is to improve the brain’s organizational ability and allow the patient to regain neural control.
Their research is driven by the principle that brain function is not hardwired or fixed, but can be reorganized in response to new experiences, sensory input and functional demands. This area of research is called neuroplasticity and is a promising and rapidly growing area of brain research.
NeuroHabilitation Corporation is funding the commercial development of PoNS. The company was created with the support of celebrity and military veteran Montel Williams, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999.
Preliminary data suggest that the device may have a wide variety of neurological applications. Remarkably, the therapy doesn’t only slow functional loss, but also has the potential to restore lost function. Because of this, researchers are saying it “breaks the rules.”
Initial testing will be conducted at veterans’ facilities on soldiers with physical and neuropsychological problems related to combat blasts and other service-related trauma.
Typically, TBI results from the head colliding with an object, such as the windshield or dashboard in a car accident.
TBI patients often have severe and disabling impairments, both mental and physical. They may face a lifetime of lost earnings, medical bills, therapy and pain.