The team at Helius Medical Technologies believe combining physical therapy with stimulation of the tongue may improve impairment of brain function and associated symptoms of injury. “We have already seen that stimulation of various nerves can improve symptoms of a range of neurological diseases. However, we believe the tongue is a much more elegant and direct pathway for stimulating brain structures and inducing neuroplasticity. We are focused on investigating the tongue as a gateway to the brain to hopefully ease the disease of brain injury,” said Dr. Jonathan Sackier, CMO at Helius. Understanding that the tongue is a shortcut to the most primitive parts of the brain begs a question about a potential unmet clinical need for work in neuroplasticity and modulation with stimulating devices.
University of Wisconsin researchers championed that the brain is not hard-wired. Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita, in particular, spent decades working to show that the brain is, in fact, quite malleable and influenced throughout life, especially by the tongue. Inspired by his research, Helius has been working on a Portable Neuromodulation Stimulation (PoNS) device, which, when combined with physical therapy, is a proposed treatment for neurological symptoms caused by disease or trauma. Helius is currently partnered with the U.S. Army and conducting a clinical trial investigating the PoNS for the treatment of balance disorders related to mild to moderate TBI. Separately, Helius is also conducting trials in Canada investigating the PoNS for the treatment of gait and balance disorders in MS.