The idea for this post comes from an article written by J. Ellen Crown, USAMRMC public affairs. When I read her article, I knew many readers of this blog would be interested in the article.
Crown tells us the tongue is “an amazing organ. Thousands of nerve fibers in it help us eat, drink and swallow. Without them, we would not taste. The tongue helps us speak. Quietly, its surface defends our bodies from germs. Yet for everything the tongue can do, perhaps one of its most exciting roles is to serve as a direct ‘gateway’ to the brain.”
Now researchers at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and NeuroHabilitation Corporation) with support by Montel Williams (a celebrity and military veteran who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999) are leveraging the power of the tiny nerves in the tongue. Their goal is to restore lost physical and mental function for service members and civilians who suffered traumatic brain injury or stroke, or who have Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis.
As revealed by Crown, 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.”
In the article, we learn the “PoNS prototype and associated therapeutic use were developed by University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists Yuri Danilov, Ph.D., Mitchell Tyler, M.S., P.E., and Kurt Kaczmarek, Ph.D. 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.” Hopefully, this is not the first time you have heard how important neuroplasticity is to your recovery.
Crown tells us preliminary data from “University of Wisconsin showed CN-NiNM to have great potential for a wide variety of neurological issues. Remarkably, the therapy doesn’t only slow functional loss, but also has the potential to restore lost function.”
Do you think that PoNS is a real possibility or little more than a fairy tale? Do you think that PoNS, or a similar device, could improve your recovery? If PoNS, or a similar device, were commercially available would you use it even if it is expensive and not covered by insurance or any benefit? How could researchers overcome the obstacles they may face in developing, testing, marketing, and selling PoNS or a similar device? If PoNS, or a similar device, were used by your pet, would your pet learn more?
Thanks to J. Ellen Crow for writing about PoNS and taking the picture of PoNS I used in this post.