Dr. Phyllis Paterson
University of Saskatchewan
About the researcher
Undergraduate Student at the University of Saskatchewan
When a loved one suffers a stroke, there is a very good chance they could be a different person compared to before the stroke. Whether the damaged area of the brain causes a person to struggle to swallow or reach for food, takes away their ability to speak their mind, or impairs their ability to walk to the store to get cheese, the goal of treatment is to bring the person back as close as possible to where they were before the stroke. Thankfully, our brains have an amazing ability called neuroplasticity, which lets our brain adapt and heal themselves. Nutrition is really important for neuroplasticity, but after stroke, many people have difficulty getting enough protein and energy in their diets. Could this lack of nutrients be putting stroke recovery out of reach?
While strokes are best known for damaging the brain, they also interrupt people’s nutrition. This study wanted to explore if the quality of nutrition was related to one’s recovery after a stroke. To fully understand this question, the scientists looked at reaching in rats that had just had a stroke. Some of the rats had a fully nutritious diet, while some of them had a protein and energy lacking diet. Reaching to grab something might seem like a very easy thing to do, but for people who have just had a stroke it can be very challenging, and since rats can be taught to reach for food, this makes it a very good way to look at the impact of a poor diet on stroke recovery.
This study could have large implications for early care treatment of stroke survivors. If the protein-rich diet helps promote reaching in rats, this suggests that hospitals should up their cafeteria’s nutrition game. Before you send off a new menu to your local hospital, these results first and foremost need to be replicated in people (since this study was done with rats). And even before that, there is still much to learn about how different types of protein and nutrition can benefit rat reaching, or if this nutrition boost can help out other aspects of stroke recovery as well. There is still a lot of science to be done!