Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the Spring 2013 University of Minnesota Medical School magazine, Medical Bulletin. The complete article can be found here.
On a chilly Minnesota evening last December, 16-year-old Tiffany Cowan sat uncomplainingly in Room 242 of the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Memorial Building as two graduate students from the University’s Brain Plasticity Laboratory carefully attached a series of wires to her scalp and right arm.
Cowan, with the consent of her parents, had volunteered to participate in one of the lab’s studies, which was examining the safety of using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) as a treatment for children with congenital stroke. tDCS is a type of painless, noninvasive brain stimulation that delivers a low (battery-powered) and persistent current to specific areas of the brain through small electrodes. Experimental studies have suggested that it may help adult stroke victims regain some function of their limbs. This is among the first to investigate whether it may help children, too.