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Tongue-to-brain sensory device a potential TBI treatment

by Bryant Jordan on February 15, 2013

Army researchers soon will begin testing a new treatment for traumatic brain injury, or TBI, that involves sending nerve-impulses directly to the brain through the tongue.

A soldier would bite down on the battery powered device for about 20 or 30 minutes while carrying out a series of physical, occupational or cognitive exercises tailored specifically to treat his impairments, according to the Army. The idea is to improve the brain’s organizational ability and allow the patient to regain neural control.

Researchers say the tongue is an efficient sensory link to the brain because of the thousands of nerve fibers that make up its surface.

The device, which was developed by NeuroHabilitation Corporation with support of Marine veteran turned TV celebrity Montel Williams, is called a Portable NeuroModulation Stimulator, or “PoNS.” Pons is actually a formation of nerve fibers located on the brain stem whose main purpose is to pass information between the cerebellum and cerebrum.

Williams in 1999 was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which disrupts communications between nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The disease can cause a broad range of neurological and physical impairments.

Williams said he learned of the research from a magazine article and contacted the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where it was being done. He joined a study within the university’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.

“The third day there I said we need this in the mouths of our soldiers,” Williams told the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at Fort Detrick, Md.

Col. Dallas Hack, director of the USAMRMC Combat Casualty Care Research Program, said collaborating with the university NeuroHabilitation Corporation will enable the Army to “maximize [its] resources to explore a potential real-world treatment for injured service members and civilians with a variety of health conditions.”

Testing will include a collaborative study with researchers and clinicians at the Blanchfield Army Community Hospital in Fort Campbell, Ky., home to the Warrior Resiliency and Recovery Center.

There will also be additional patient testing at veteran and civilian medical institutions, according to the Army.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

riicky February 15, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Oh wow.

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Mike H. February 15, 2013 at 8:50 pm

this is amazing!

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whatever February 15, 2013 at 11:09 pm

not really. If this device is for the US army / navy / air force, they will need to change the shape of the sensor plate … to resemble a big nipple on a D-cup breast. That way you can start the treatment right at the time the problem is developing.

and if it can also drip milk, it would be truly fantastic.

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UAVGeek February 18, 2013 at 12:30 am

Someone drop a hellfire on your mother? I really think so.

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Guest78705 February 18, 2013 at 8:37 pm

UAVGeek, did Whatever's post hurt your pride or feelings? No need to get upset about it. There is no shame in wanting to get something that your mom has failed to give you when you were young, or what you have not been able to get in the military. Take it easy boy. Hope you can take advantage of this device for your TBI.

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UAVGeek February 19, 2013 at 5:11 pm

Nah just taking a strong disliking to Whatever's verbal incontinence.

And no, if you read back to my previous posts you'd probably be able to infer a little about my military experience. Maybe you should take a nice, hot cup of STFU too.

LtKitty February 15, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Make it chocolate flavored and you've got yourself a deal!

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whatever February 15, 2013 at 11:01 pm

dark chocolate?

white chocolate?

milk chocolate?

chocolate with hazelnuts? strawberries? raisins? pecans? peanuts? almonds?

sweetened with real sugar?

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LtKitty February 16, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Plain and simple dark chocolate for me and definitely not the over-sweetened nonsense we get from Hershey's. I love America with a burning passion, but I gotta say the Europeans do chocolate right.

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blight_ February 16, 2013 at 7:09 pm

We are busy dismantling the government-subsidized academic research infrastructure.

The alternative is to just wait for Lockheed…eyeroll!

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oblat February 16, 2013 at 10:05 pm

A laughable scam.

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J. Biden February 18, 2013 at 12:26 pm

I had an idea for an even better, but similar, design. It worked like a suppository.

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Daisyhead July 14, 2013 at 6:05 am

Amazing – anyone try this on patients with Huntington's Disease?

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Robert Hussey January 18, 2014 at 5:41 pm
Restore Palestine February 23, 2013 at 12:34 am

Given the way you write, I do infer little about your military experience, academic experience, AND ABOVE ALL, life experience.

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