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Research Snapshot: U of M study finds new, effective therapy for children with cerebral palsy

A University of Minnesota researcher has discovered that combining brain stimulation and a common form of stroke therapy known as constraint-induced movement therapy can improve recovery of function in children with cerebral palsy who have suffered a stroke.

The study, first authored by Bernadette Gillick, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Program in Physical Therapy, was recently published in Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology.

It’s important to note that the forms of non-invasive brain stimulation Gillick investigates are painless, and have shown no evidence of seizure or other serious adverse event. Also, this therapy has the potential to be applied in the clinical setting, simultaneously with rehabilitation training.

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U of M named one of 25 regional stroke centers that will revolutionize stroke clinical research

[News release adapted from National Institutes of Health]

The University of Minnesota has been named one of 25 institutions that will lead a nationwide network of regional stroke centers as part of a new, NIH-driven effort to reduce the impact of stroke across the United States.

Within the new program, the 25 primary sites will work with nearby satellite facilities, capitalize on teams of researchers representing every medical specialty needed for stroke care and will address the three prongs of stroke research: prevention, treatment and recovery.

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University of Minnesota researchers investigate the best way to alleviate post-stroke depression

For the thousands of people in the U.S. who have a stroke each year, post-stroke depression is a serious concern. With up to two-thirds of stroke patients experiencing depression, researchers are investigating the best treatment method for this problem.

A recent study from the University of Minnesota School of Nursing monitored the effectiveness of problem-solving therapy instead of prescription medication on decreasing depression symptoms in a group of post-stroke patients.

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Health Talk recommends: Retraining the brain

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the Spring 2013 University of Minnesota Medical School magazine, Medical Bulletin. The complete article can be found here.

On a chilly Minnesota evening last December, 16-year-old Tiffany Cowan sat uncomplainingly in Room 242 of the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Memorial Building as two graduate students from the University’s Brain Plasticity Laboratory carefully attached a series of wires to her scalp and right arm.

Cowan, with the consent of her parents, had volunteered to participate in one of the lab’s studies, which was examining the safety of using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) as a treatment for children with congenital stroke. tDCS is a type of painless, noninvasive brain stimulation that delivers a low (battery-powered) and persistent current to specific areas of the brain through small electrodes. Experimental studies have suggested that it may help adult stroke victims regain some function of their limbs. This is among the first to investigate whether it may help children, too.

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Research Snapshot: Does psychosocial distress elevate your risk of stroke?

Older Americans dealing with high levels of psychosocial distress are at higher risk for stroke according to new research led by Susan Everson-Rose, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate director of the Program in Health Disparities Research at the University of Minnesota.

The study, published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, followed more than 4,000 people aged 65 and over who were participants in the Chicago Health and Aging Project.

To arrive at their results, researchers identified 151 deaths from stroke and 452 events that led to first-time hospitalization as a result of a stroke. Researchers found that those with the most psychosocial distress had three times the risk of death from stroke and a 54 percent increased risk of first hospitalization compared to those least distressed.  Furthermore, the risk of distress climbed with age.

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What has nine lives and makes you live longer?

We’re talking cats here.

People love their pets. Some people love their pets to an almost excessive amount. But when you consider the fact that owning a pet can add years to your life, a cat can quickly seem like a smart investment.

According to a study that followed more than 4,000 cat owners, led by executive director of the Minnesota Stroke Institute at the University of Minnesota, Adnan Qureshi, M.D., the presence of cats results in a significantly lower risk of death by heart attack or stroke.

Cat owners “appeared to have a lower rate of dying from heart attacks” over 10 years of follow-up compared to feline-free folk, Qureshi said in an interview with U.S. News.

The 30 percent reduction in heart attack risk “was a little bit surprising,” he added. “We certainly expected an effect, because we thought that there was a biologically plausible mechanism at work. But the magnitude of the effect was hard to predict.”

This may not come as a surprise to cat owners who have experienced the unconditional love a feline companion can offer, but, cats, by nature, can alleviate stress and anxiety, which has the potential to reduce the risk of heart attack.

Although this type of companionship can potentially help you live longer, it does have a serious risk of cute overload.

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