Electrical stimulation and nerve damage

Diabetes is a common disease that is becoming increasingly widespread, bringing major costs to society. Nerve damage in diabetes (diabetic neuropathy) is a frequent complication with chronic pain, unpleasant sensory disturbances, and reduced quality of life for the individual.

New treatments are necessary, because there is no effective treatment where nerve damage has already occurred, and the treatment of this chronic pain is often unsatisfactory. New research indicates that changes in brain function are central in the development of these symptoms. It is therefore probable that stimulation of the brain with external electrodes and harmless electrical current (neuromodulation) can affect these brain functions, thus reducing the sensory disturbances and pain – even when there is permanent nerve damage.

“The aim of this study is to investigate the effect of brain stimulation in people with diabetic nerve damage and pain. This is a randomised trial in which participants undergo two different treatments, an active stimulation of the brain, and a simulated “sham” treatment. Focus is especially on pain and sensory disturbance, and the underlying functional mechanisms in the brain, mapped out withadvanced magnetic resonance scans,” explains Jens Brøndum Frøkjær, PhD, professor and principal investigator at Aalborg University Hospital.

He expects that new insight into diabetic neuropathy and the effective mechanisms of neuromodulation will ultimately be able to support the development of new mechanism-oriented forms of treatment, alleviating symptoms and improving quality of life for this major group of chronic patients.