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Research featured in a bbc documentary © Icon films / BBC

The documentary “Andrew Marr: My Brain and Me” broadcast on BBC2 on 14th of February, 2017, describes political broadcaster Andrew Marr’s journey to recovery after a life-threatening stroke in 2013. Rehabilitation of movement after stroke requires repeated practice and Andrew describes the intensive rehabilitation he underwent early in his recovery to regain his speech, as well as his recent attempts to improve motor function on his left side of the body. 

As part of the show, Andrew received a combined brain stimulation and upper limb physiotherapy intervention, based on research led by Professor Charlotte Stagg and Professor Heidi Johansen-Berg. Their team studied the use of anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to support rehabilitation training in stroke patients. They observed greater improvement in movement in patients who received the stimulation compared to those who underwent sham (placebo) stimulation. The research, published in Science Translational Medicine, suggests that brain stimulation can support stroke recovery.

Andrew underwent a series of tDCS sessions and received stimulations to his lesioned hemisphere while performing physiotherapy-style activities. In his case, very little or no improvement was seen at the end of the intervention. Professor Charlotte Stagg explained that there is usually a small amount of noise in the measurements used to assess improvement, depending on tiredness and fatigue. There is currently no way to predict who is likely to benefit from this intervention prior to starting.

The documentary is available on BBC iPlayer until 19th of March.