Scientists at the University College London (UCL) Institute of Neurology (ION), in the United Kingdom, announce the development of a new method for improving attention in patients who suffer from strokes.
According to the researchers, administering the drug rotigotine through a skin patch helps solve inattention in these individuals. That is not to say that the patch treats inattention completely, but it does lower its levels considerably.
This contributes a great deal to improving quality of life for both patients and caregivers. Investigators from the ION Department of Brain Repair and Rehabilitation say that the severe form of inattention plaguing stroke victims is called hemi-spatial neglect, and add that the condition is very common.
In fact, HSN is one of the main debilitating effects of strokes, and one of the main reasons why most patients cannot live independently following the adverse medical event. HSN manifests itself primarily through inattentiveness and forgetfulness, PsychCentral
This is especially clear in the case of patients who suffer stroke-induced damage in the right hemisphere of their brains. One of the most common consequences is losing awareness of the left side of their body. Patients also tend to exhibit poor memory.
In a new series of studies, the UCL investigators determined that patients who were administered rotigotine via skin patches performed significantly better at attention tests than peers who received a placebo treatment.
The drug's main action is stimulating neural dopamine receptors. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter produced within the brain, which plays a critical role in reward-driven learning. The chemical also plays a role in determining heart rate and blood pressure.
“Inattention can have a devastating effect on stroke patients and their families,” explains ION professor Masud Husain, the leader of the new investigation.
“It impacts on all aspects of their lives. If the results of our clinical trial are replicated in further, larger studies, we will have overcome a major hurdle towards providing a new treatment for this important consequence of stroke,” he adds.
“Our findings show that it is possible to alter attention by using a drug that acts at specific receptors in the brain, and therefore have implications for understanding the mechanisms that might cause inattention in conditions other than stroke,” the expert concludes.
The new research effort was sponsored by the Wellcome Trust and the UK Medical Research Council (MRC). Details of the study were published in the latest issue of the esteemed scientific journal Brain.