Allan Strongwater, MD, Chief, Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery, St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital; with Richard Foulds, PhD, and Ghaith Androwis, PhD candidate, both of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, lead a team of researchers working to better understand how vestibular stimulation – a process of sending electric messages to a nerve in the ear that maintains balance – can help children with cerebral palsy and other movement and spasticity issues.
“Our research shows that stimulation to certain nerves may help specific patient populations who struggle to manage spasticity and other muscle control issues,” says Dr. Strongwater. “Our study focuses on a small group of pediatric patients diagnosed with cerebral palsy. These patients experienced reduced stiffness and spasticity after we mechanically stimulated the vestibular nerve.”
The vestibular system is one of the most important sensory systems in the body. It is located in the inner ear and helps the body figure out whether we are moving or not; it is responsible for detecting gravity. If it does not function properly, patients have problems with muscle tone, anxiety and learning. For patients with cerebral palsy, spasticity causes pain and difficulty walking. Treatments to help stabilize the vestibular system include medication, physical and occupational therapy and casting. “Our goal with this research is to find a way to reduce spasticity to improve motor function and walking in individuals with cerebral palsy,” says Dr. Strongwater. “We are looking at some of the basic science principles around spasticity – why it happens, what is happening in the brain, and how it can be controlled.”
About St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital
Sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth, St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, NJ, is an acute care state designated specialized children’s hospital known for its broad spectrum of advanced high quality pediatric services. With a focus on caring for the “whole child,” St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital offers the expertise of more than 200 Board-certified pediatricians specializing in all major pediatric concentrations, nurses who have received the Magnet Award for Nursing Excellence consistently since 1999, and a skilled team of clinicians and support staff. St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital is a member of St. Joseph’s Healthcare System. For more information, please visit our website, www.StJosephsHealth.org or call 877.757.SJHS (7547).