WASHINGTON (AP) — Physical therapy changes the way body parts are represented in the brain, a finding researchers hope will lead to improved therapies.
A team of researchers in Germany and the United States studied 10 musicians suffering from focal hand dystonia, which causes the hands to cramp into abnormal positions and make uncoordinated movements.
The musicians underwent therapy in which parts of their hands were immobilized with a splint while they exercised. The magnetic currents in the patients' brains were measured before therapy and after it had been under way for eight days.
Before the therapy the brains had an abnormal representation of the hand, according to the team led by Victor Candia of the University of Konstanz, Germany.
After treatment of the hand, manual dexterity was improved and the brain representation of the affected hand became more like that of the normal hand.
The study "demonstrates that in the case of motor disorders, but also for other brain disorders — for example after brain injury — highly specific therapeutic plans have to be developed," Candia said.
Such research, he said, combined with other studies under way, can help in the development of new therapies and improve rehabilitation of motor and sensory disorders.
Working with Candia were other researchers at Konstanz and at Pennsylvania State University.
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