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Dr. Harry Kovelman

Dr. Harry Kovelman

Vice President of Medical Affairs, Helius Medical Technologies

For thousands of Canadians suffering the effects of a mild or moderate brain injury — particularly issues with balance and gait — an innovative device and treatment program are providing benefits. 

Developed by Helius Medical Technologies, the PoNS™ device, short for Portable Neuromodulation Stimulator, delivers mild stimulation to the surface of the tongue, which is propagated naturally through the facial nerves to the brainstem. The brainstem controls posture and balance, among other functions. Used in combination with therapeutic activities, the device encourages something called neuroplasticity — the brain’s innate ability to form new neural connections to compensate for injury.

With a huge unmet medical need, Helius has been working for more than a decade on research to develop non- surgical neuromodulation technologies.

“This is an area of technology that, in recent years, has shown explosive growth,” says Dr. Harry Kovelman, Vice President of Medical Affairs at Helius. “There has been a nice shift in the adoption of non-surgical therapies, offering a better experience for patients.” PoNS™ is a Class II medical device authorized in Canada.

How does it work?

PoNS Portable Neuro Stimulator Tongue Sensor

PoNS Treatment™ is a comprehensive, yet short-term 14-week program. The treatment is shown to restore the balance and gait of those suffering from a mild or moderate traumatic brain injury. The first two weeks of treatment are completed at an Authorized PoNS™ Treatment Clinic featuring one-on-one sessions with a Certified PoNS™ Trainer. The remaining 12 weeks are primarily done at the patient’s home, with weekly clinic visits to evaluate progress. An easy-to-use device with a mouthpiece is worn by the patient, stimulating their tongue. Broken into three sessions, the treatment consists of approximately 100 to 120 minutes daily wearing the device. Balance and gait activities are incorporated, with breathing and mindfulness exercises in the evening session. 

“Scientists have discovered the symbiotic relationship between stimulation and physical therapy that helps the brain reorganize itself following brain injury,” says Dr. Kovelman. “It’s only when the therapies are combined that we see this rapidity of change in the brain.”

The tongue is like a “super-highway” to the brain stem. It’s a good conductor of stimulant and there are two cranial nerves on its surface. When stimulated, this initiates the neural cascade and is propagated to the brain, creating the right environment for neuroplasticity to occur. 

The PoNS™ is a smart device, allowing therapists to monitor and download the data, to ensure patient compliance with the treatment. 

There has been a nice shift in the adoption of non-surgical therapies, offering a better experience for patients.

Dr. Harry Kovelman, Vice President of Medical Affairs at Helius

Treating the invisible injuries

According to Dr. Kovelman, about 90% of mild or moderate brain injuries don’t show on CT scans and MRIs. Often these invisible injuries go untreated, while patients continue to suffer from the debilitating effects.

“In our clinical trials, we were able to determine as early as two weeks in if patients would respond to the therapy, which the majority did,” says Dr. Kovelman. “This is huge for people with chronic balance disorders. It’s very emotional when you see the treatment working, because you realize how impactful it is.”

He encourages physicians, pa­tients, and their loved ones to visit PoNS Treatment™ to learn more and contact their nearest authorized clinic. The clinics are located in cities across Canada, offering patients free initial consultations to determine if they’re a good candidate to step forward with PoNS™.

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