Ear-zapping device improves balance in Gulf War veterans
Although its cause isn't clearly understood, Gulf War Illness affects approximately 250,000 of the 697,000 veterans who served in Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield. Many of those people may be helped by a new device which minimizes dizziness, one of the key symptoms of the disorder.
Developed by a team at New Jersey's Rutgers University, the waistband-worn gadget is about the size of a Walkman, and it incorporates a hard-wired electrical stimulator which is clipped to the wearer's earlobe. That stimulator produces a low-level, random electrical noise pattern which is imperceptible by the user, and that travels into the body.
When the device was tested on 54 Gulf War Illnesses sufferers – along with six healthy Gulf War veterans and 36 civilians who were the same age and sex as the veterans – the results were very promising.
"The electrical stimulation added a random noise pattern into the veterans' vestibular systems that travelled through the earlobes into the inner ear, which acts like the body's accelerometer," says Assoc. Prof. Jorge M. Serrador, lead author of the study. "This added noise improved balance in 100 percent of the veterans with Gulf War Illness."
The scientists are now researching how long the effect lasts after the device is removed. They believe that it may also be useful for treating other Gulf War Illness symptoms, and for treating dizziness in civilian populations such as the elderly.
Source: Rutgers University