This novel way to apply the concept of neuroplasticity to rehabilitation is the brainchild of scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Tactile Communication and Neurorehabilitation Laboratory (TCNL).
Scientific Theory: Amplifying the Brain’s Ability to Heal Itself
The PoNS device is based on almost 40 years of research in the field of neuromodulation—the use of external stimulation to intentionally change and regulate the electrochemical environment of the brain. It is believed that neuromodulation enhances neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to restructure or relearn in response to new experiences, sensory input, and functional demands. Research has shown that the process of neuroplasticity underlies all cerebral learning, training and rehabilitation.
In clinical studies, the PoNS device coupled with targeted functional therapy induces cranial nerve noninvasive neuromodulation (CN-NINM). Therapy consists of targeted physical, occupational and cognitive exercises, based on the patient’s deficits.
Research shows that electrical stimulation of the tongue stimulates two major cranial nerves: the trigeminal (the nerve responsible for sensations in the face, biting and chewing) and the facial (the nerve responsible for motor control of most of the muscles of facial expression). The electrical stimulation of the cranial nerves creates a flow of neural impulses that are then delivered directly into the brain stem—the main control center for many life functions, including sensory perception and movement. From the brain stem, these impulses travel throughout the brain and activate or reactivate neurons and structures involved in human function—the cortex, spinal cord and potentially the entire central nervous system.
Researchers believe that this sustained stimulation initiates a sequential cascade of changes in the actual interconnected nuclei, or the neuronal network, that are at the core of major anatomical components of the brain.
Based on this theory, it is believed that CN-NINM may be applied to improve a large variety of neurological symptoms. For more detailed information, download the PoNS fact sheet from the Media Resources page.