When I agreed to be part of the Neurofast Trial at UCLH I could never have known what a hysterical couple of hours I would have.
The Neurofast Trial is a study funded by the Stroke Association looking at 142 people who have had a stroke and trying to discover why some people have fatigue and others don’t. The idea is that the way in which the brain controls the muscles in the body is different in those with and without fatigue.
The boffins in Queen Square have devised a cunning plan. By stimulating the region of the brain that controls the fingers while performing certain tasks they can work out how ‘fatigued’ that particular region of the brain is.
I had already watched a YouTube clip of what the trial involved and immediately warmed to Anna the therapist who would be conducting the research. As I watched, however, I felt more and more uneasy about what I was about to undergo.
In the clip Anna looked very serious as she took what appeared to be a huge clockwork key and placed it against the head of her unsuspecting subject. The ‘key’ then delivers a magnetic stimulus to the brain which makes the muscles of the hand react.
On the appointed day I arrived at 33 Queen Square and first of all discovered nobody on the desk knew I was coming. The place is a maze of different neurological specialisms. I hadn’t realized that the research section was very separate but I eventually recognized Anna’s beaming smile as she arrived to collect me.
First I had to be wired up with electrodes attached to my fingers and hand. Next I had to have a sort of trial run to see how much brain stimulation I could take. To say it was a weird sensation would be a total understatement.
Luckily Anna has a great sense of humour and as she cheerfully pressed a pedal on this huge machine and hovered over my head with her clockwork key, each time my hand jumped up off the pillow we both got a fit of the giggles.
The only way I can describe the sensation is like someone flicking your scalp quite hard and then getting a tingling after effect. The really weird thing is how the fingers and hand on the other side to where the ‘key’ is placed twitch involuntarily in time with the tapping. It was very spooky but somehow incredibly funny.
The second test was even more hysterical. I had to sit bolt upright in a chair and place my arm on a table in a contraption where I had to pull as hard as I whilst Anna zapped the other side of my head with a slightly different machine.
At one point I was asked to pull the lever as hard as I could and Anna got very excited shouting and hollering “Go go go!’ at me as if I was in a race. Then suddenly I was zapped out of the blue and my arm flew up and nearly threw me out of my chair. We then dissolved into helpless laughter again.
I have to say I have never enjoyed any ‘medical’ experience as much as I di this particular trial. I would happily go back and get zapped again. I know they use this technique to help people with depression and I certainly felt on top of the world when I left. Enough anyway to go shopping all afternoon and spend a small fortune on new clothes! Thank you Anna!