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Tongue-stimulation research focuses on multiple sclerosis

Viewers of “The Oprah Show” who saw a November 10, 2010, interview with Montel Williams may have caught a glimpse of research being conducted at the Tactile Communication and Neurorehabilitation Lab (TCNL).

TCNL is part of the Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The lab mission is to develop solutions for sensory and neurological disorders by applying principles of neuroplasticity, enabling the brain to process information in new ways and rehabilitate after injury caused by trauma or disease. The lab grew out of the work of the late Paul Bach-y-Rita, a UW scientist and professor of rehabilitation medicine and biomedical engineering whose laboratory pioneered tactile displays for the blind in the 1980s.

The present TCNL leaders, including Orthopedics and Rehabilitation Researcher and Biomedical Engineering Senior Lecturer Mitchell Tyler, and Orthopedics and Rehabilitation Senior Scientists Kurt Kaczmarek and Yuri Danilov, collaborated with Dr. Bach-y-Rita for many years and now works to advance the theory and application of brain plasticity, neuromodulation, sensory substitution and tactile displays.

Current TCNL research focuses on developing new methods to reduce symptoms of stroke, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. Very early results from cranial-nerve non-invasive neuromodulation (CN-NINM) intervention have shown improvements in balance, posture, gait and upper-limb control in some experimental subjects. However, because placebo-controlled, double-blind experiments have yet to be completed, and results-to-date have yet to be verified by independent labs, these findings must be considered preliminary.

A video on Williams' website highlights his experiences at UW-Madison; however, the researchers currently are not recruiting subjects in the lab's research program. Learn more about the lab and how to support its research here

Susan Lampert Smith