At a glance these two sequences appear the same, but there’s a crucial difference. The top one shows a rat that was induced to have a stroke, attempting – but failing – to grasp a food pellet. Below, the same rat, having undergone treatment with drugs to boost nerve growth and rehabilitative training, tries to grasp the food – and succeeds. Behind this image lies a new development in our understanding of motor function recovery following a stroke. Scientists found that stroke-induced rats could make an almost complete recovery through motor training, but only after they had undergone treatment with drugs that boost the growth of nerves. These rats regained 85 per cent of their original motor skills. Whereas those trained straight after the stroke in parallel with nerve growth-enhancing drugs regained only 15 per cent, which was worse than no treatment at all. Should the treatment of human stroke patients be revised?
Written by Nick Kennedy