There is absolutely no question that stroke is still one of the leading and most devastating causes of disability among adults.
According to the American Heart Association, approximately 795,000 people each year suffer a stroke.1 It is also a leading cause of mortality. In 2011, approximately 1 in 20 deaths in the United States was due to stroke.
Standard diagnostic tools include use of MRI and CAT scans, along with measurements such as the NIH Stroke Scale.2 Standard treatment consists of surgery to remove the blood clot, use of anti-platelet drugs (such as aspirin), and the relearning of neurological function lost as a result of the stroke.
Unfortunately, the relearning phase can be very long, and patients may not completely regain lost neurological function. However, some interesting recent research may show that training patients in specific eye movements, called saccades, may not only help determine where brain function may have been lost, but also help improve symptoms as measured on the NIH Stroke Scale (which measures stroke severity).3
What are saccades?
Saccades are rapid eye movements that change their point of fixation.4 They can range from small eye movements (such as for reading) to larger ones (such as when gazing at surroundings). In terms of strokes and similar disorders, any changes in the reaction time, degree of movement, or duration of movement in response to a stimulus can be measured.3
Certain saccades that are prompted by training methods may help improve neurological function involving visual-spatial relations that may have been lost due to stroke.5 Such methods are known as eye movement training (EMT).
Promising stroke research
A new study done by Frederick Carrick, DC, and the Carrick Institute was published in the the January 2016 issue of Frontiers in Neurology. It compared the use of EMT plus aspirin to just aspirin in order to see if EMT could help with neurological functional recovery following a stroke.3
Thirty-four patients who had suffered a middle cerebral-arterial ischemic stroke were randomized to one of two groups (17 patients in each): Standard aspirin treatment or aspirin treatment plus customized eye-movement training using a moving ball target projected onto a video screening.3
The researchers performed an electroencephalogram (EEG) and administered the NIH Stroke Scale to all participants at the beginning of the study and seven days afterward.2,3
When the researchers compared the baseline EEG and the NIH Stroke Scale data to that collected seven days afterward, they found a statistically significant improvement in terms of neurological function in the group that received EMT.3
Although the researchers admit that the sample size was small and only used two measurements (EEG and NIH Stroke Scale), they assert that EMT shows promise as a low-cost, effective means to help stroke patients regain neurological function.
A stroke can be devastating in terms of the amount of neurological function that the sufferer may lose, as well as months (or possibly years) needed to rebuild that function. This new research may mean DCs could incorporate EMT, in addition to table adjustments and other wellness plans, to help these patients begin to recover what they lost as a result of their stroke.
- Mozzafarian D, Benjamin EJ, Go AS, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics – 2015 update: A report from the American Heart Association. Circulation 2015, 131(4), e29-e322.
- NIH Stroke Scale Training DVD (Version 2.0).
- Carrick FR, Oggero E, Pagnacco G, et al. Eye-movement training results in changes in qEEG and NIH Stroke Scale in subjects suffering from acute middle cerebral artery ischemic stroke: A randomized control trial. Frontiers in Neurology 2016 Jan 22, 7, 3.
- Purves D, Augustine GJ, Fitzpatrick D, et al., Eds. Types of eye movements and their functions. In: Neuroscience, 2nd. ed. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates; 2001.
- Nelles G, Pscherer A, de Greiff A, et al. Eye-movement training-induced plasticity in patients with post-stroke hemianopia. Journal of Neurology 2009 May, 256(5), 726-733