Mild TBI Improved by Low-Impulse Electric Stimulation

SAN DIEGO—Low-impulse electrical stimulation (LIP-tES) to the brain shows promise in improving neural function in mild traumatic brain injury (TBI).

The effect was documented by neuroimaging, according to the online report published by the journal Brain Injury.1

In the pilot study conducted by researchers from the VA San Diego Health System (VASDHS) and the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, a version of LIP-tES, IASIS, combined with concurrent electroencephalography monitoring (EEG), was tested in six participants with mild TBI and who had suffered persistent post-concussion symptoms.

Magnetoencephalography (MEG) was used before and after treatment to assess the treatment effects of IASIS. Researchers explained that MEG is a form of noninvasive functional imaging that directly measures brain neuronal electromagnetic activity, with high temporal resolution (1 ms) and high spatial accuracy (~3 mm at the cortex).

“Our previous publications have shown that MEG detection of abnormal brain slow-waves is one of the most sensitive biomarkers for mild traumatic brain injury (concussions), with about 85% sensitivity in detecting concussions and, essentially, no false-positives in normal patients,” noted senior author Roland Lee, MD, professor of radiology and director of Neuroradiology, MRI and MEG at UC San Diego School of Medicine and VASDHS. “This makes it an ideal technique to monitor the effects of concussion treatments such as LIP-tES.”

Background information in the article describes how TBI is a leading cause of sustained physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioral problems in both the civilian population—mainly caused by motor vehicle accidents, sports, falls and assaults— and among military personnel—blast injuries. Most cases, 75% of civilian and 89% of military, are deemed mild and typically resolve in a few cases.

In some instances, however, mild TBI and related post-concussive symptoms persist for months, even years, resulting in chronic, long-term cognitive and/or behavioral impairment, the study noted.

The brains of all six participants displayed abnormal slow-waves in initial, baseline MEG scans, researchers reported, but, following treatment using IASIS, MEG scans indicated measurably reduced abnormal slow-waves. The participants also reported a significant reduction in post-concussion scores, according to the results.

“For the first time, we’ve been able to document with neuroimaging the effects of LIP-tES treatment on brain functioning in mild TBI,” noted first author Ming-Xiong Huang, PhD, professor in the Department of Radiology at UC San Diego School of Medicine and a research scientist at VASDHS. “It’s a small study, which certainly must be expanded, but it suggests new potential for effectively speeding the healing process in mild traumatic brain injuries.”

  1. Huang, MX, Swan AR, Quinto AA, Matthews S, et. al. A pilot treatment study for mild traumatic brain injury: Neuroimaging changes detected by MEG after low-intensity pulse-based transcranial electrical stimulation. Brain Injury, 2017; 1 DOI: 1080/02699052.2017.1363409

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