A new type of therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome is showing promise, but researchers are still trying to figure out whether it will work for everyone.
A new type, dubbed electric muscle stimulation, uses tiny electrodes implanted under the skin to stimulate specific muscles.
The stimulation uses a very low frequency electrical field, and the electrode is implanted under skin instead of a muscle, which has to be surgically removed to operate.
The research, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, is promising, said lead researcher Christopher D. Schott, M.D., a neuroscientist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
The device is “probably the most exciting thing we’ve done,” he said.
Schott and his colleagues used electrodes implanted beneath the skin of the subjects in the lab and at home to study their brains.
The researchers measured brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to see how the electrical stimulation changed activity in the brain’s frontal cortex, which regulates cognitive control.
They found that using the electric stimulation reduced brain fatigue and improved cognitive function, but the device did not affect the subjects’ mood or emotional well-being.
The electrodes were placed under the scalp and used to stimulate muscles of the upper body.
The electrodes can be placed under muscle groups that are known to contribute to fatigue.
When the electrical fields are high enough, the muscles can be stimulated to produce a low-frequency magnetic field, causing the muscles to contract, according to the researchers.
This research builds on previous work showing the effectiveness of the electrodes.
Researchers have shown that using electrical stimulation under the feet reduces fatigue.
The study is the first to look at the effect of using the electrodes under the foot, and showed that the electrodes could reduce fatigue in people with chronic fatigue and depression.
Researchers are also planning to test the electrical motor therapy on people with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.
The findings could have important implications for patients who suffer from chronic fatigue, said Dr. Elizabeth R. Deeks, a neurologist at Emory University in Atlanta.
The electrical stimulation device is being tested on a small group of people, but it has to take several weeks for the results to show up in a larger group, and it is important to get the treatment right, she said.
“This is not a pill,” Deeks said.
“This is a therapy.”
For the study, the researchers used the electrodes implanted in the subjects with chronic pain, depression and multiple sclerosis to determine whether the devices would have a similar effect on their brains and bodies.
The subjects were asked to participate in the study and then had electrodes implanted underneath the feet.
The volunteers then had to perform simple cognitive tasks and complete tests designed to measure cognitive function.
The researchers had the subjects read aloud words or pictures about a hypothetical person who was paralyzed and had to guess what the person’s name would be.
In a second study, participants were asked how they felt after being given the electrodes and asked to rate their mental health on a scale of one to seven, ranging from mildly to extremely depressed.
After each session, the participants had to rate how depressed they felt on a 7-point scale.
The participants with the electrodes reported feeling worse after receiving the stimulation.
The findings showed that stimulation did not reduce their mental state.
“We found that there was no difference in the mental health scores after receiving and not receiving the electrodes, but there was an improvement in cognitive function,” Schott said.
This study also found that stimulation increased blood flow to the brains of the participants, so that they could respond to the electrical stimuli more effectively.
The team is also investigating whether the electrodes will help the brain process new information.
“The idea is to put these electrodes under different parts of the brain and give it different types of stimulation,” Schotts said.
The device is available at health food stores, pharmacies and drug stores.
The manufacturers are planning to begin shipping the device this summer, and Schott is hoping to have the device available by the end of the year.