£891K grant to explore restoration of motor function in the vegetative state

Dr Davinia Fernández-Espejo has been awarded an MRC New Investigator Research Grant worth £891K to explore the potential for electrical brain stimulation to restore motor function in the vegetative state.

This three-year project will assess the potential for the non-invasive form of electrical brain stimulation, known as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), to modulate the activity of the brain regions that control movement, and increase responsiveness as a result. The work will focus on the mechanisms underlying the effects of stimulation in the healthy brain, with the long-term goal of developing effective interventions to increase external responsiveness in patients with a prolonged disorder of consciousness (PDOC) after severe brain injury.

This project provides a theoretical and practical framework for evidence-based brain stimulation protocols to restore a degree of motor control in PDOC patients, thus improving diagnostic accuracy, quality of life, and rehabilitation options. Scientifically, this research will provide new insight into how the motor system generates voluntary actions. Moreover, it will contribute to a better understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying the effects of tDCS.