Amphetamine speeds language recovery in stroke survivors

September 06, 2001

DALLAS, - In the first study of its kind, researchers have shown that pairing a type of amphetamine with speech/language therapy may help some stroke survivors more quickly recover their ability to communicate, according to a report in the September issue of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

According to researchers, the study was the first to use low doses of a type of amphetamine called dextroamphetamine in a double-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled study of aphasia. Aphasia is the loss of the ability to articulate ideas or comprehend language. It is most often caused by a stroke that injures the brain's language center.

Dextroamphetamine enhances the release of noradrenaline, a neurotransmitter that may stimulate areas of the brain damaged by stroke and promote the growth of new nerve connections. Noradrenaline has been shown to enhance the recovery of stroke-impaired motor skills, sensory and visual deficits in animal studies.

Researchers studied 21 stroke survivors with moderate to severe aphasia (13 men and 8 women aged 41-71 years) over a four-year period. Participants entered the study 16 to 45 days after a non-hemorrhagic stroke. All received traditional speech/language therapy over a five-week period.

Some individuals took 10 milligrams of dextroamphetamine 30 minutes before therapy, while some took a placebo. Baseline testing determined each patient's deficits and abilities, and an intervention program was designed to address their individual needs. Results were documented with communication ability tests and at one week, the drug group had made significant gains.

Although both groups started off with comparable severity before treatment, there was a significant difference in gains of communications abilities with the greater gain in the amphetamine group, one week after the course of combination of drugs and therapy. Eighty-three percent (10 of 12) of the dextroamphetamine subjects surpassed the 15-point gain that researchers had specified as a clinically significant change, compared with 22 percent (2 of 9) of the placebo group. The difference gains in the drug group compared to the placebo group were still significant when corrected for initial aphasia severity and age.

There were no adverse reactions from the drugs, researchers noted. Researchers are planning to explore other drugs and dosing regimens to determine the optimum timing of drug administration and the amount of behavioral treatment necessary for maximal recovery.
The research was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.

CONTACT: For journal copies only, please call: 214-706-1396.
For other information, call: Carole Bullock: 214-706-1279 or Bridgette McNeill: 214-706-1135.

American Heart Association

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