Saturday, March 21, 2015

PoNS Inspired Therapy

Rebecca Dutton
Home After a Stroke
March 15, 2015

I read about a device called PoNS that delivers mild electric stimulation to the tongue (1).  Thousands of sensory receptors on the tongue send information to the brainstem.  This got my attention because I had a brainstem stroke.  Brain scans and EEG studies found that milliseconds after using PoNS all parts of the brain start to fire.  Brain damaged subjects who used PoNS during therapy got better (e.g. while walking on a treadmill).

I have been aspirating pills into my lungs lately so I decided to gently stroke my tongue with an extra soft toothbrush.  The hemiplegic side of my tongue was numb while the sound side was hypersensitive.  Tongue stimulation produced saliva only when I brushed the sound side.  I turned the toothbrush over to the smooth side and pressed down on my tongue.  The sound side arched up into a hump, but the hemiplegic side stayed flat unless I concentrated fiercely.  I have been blaming my epiglottis for not completely covering the opening to my lungs  - the flap that covers the opening to my lungs when I swallow.  Trying to move food to my throat with a tongue that is numb and floppy on one side cannot be good.

Before I take my morning pills I do tongue stimulation and then sing or read out loud to warm up my tongue and throat muscles.  The 1st time I did tongue stroking I felt a weird sensation on the affected side of my tongue for several hours.  For several days I have safely swallowed numerous pills in the morning.  However, this positive outcome fades by lunch time.  I will continue brushing and pressing down on my tongue to see where this leads.  Gently using an extra soft toothbrush is cheaper than driving 900 miles to Wisconsin where Dr. Yuri Danolov has a PoNS clinic.  My past recovery has confirmed the research on neuroplasticity, so it is worth a try.

1. Doidge N. The Brain's Way of Healing Itself. New York, NY: Penguin Books; 2015.

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