Magnetic Stimulation Treatment Could Help Stroke Patients
December 15, 2011

Magnetic Stimulation Treatment Could Help Stroke Patients

New research suggests that using magnetic stimulation of the nerve cells in the brain of a stroke patent may help them recover faster.

Hemispatial neglect is a condition in which a stroke patient is unable to see or recognize anything on the left side of their body.

The condition is common after a stroke occurs on the right side of the brain.  Currently, doctors treat the condition through attention and concentration training using computer and pencil-and-paper tasks.

A new study found that magnetic stimulation of the nerve cells in the brain may speed up the recovery from this condition.

In transcranial magnetic stimulation, a large electromagnetic coil is placed against the scalp, which creates electrical currents that stimulate nerve cells.

"The treatment is based on the theory that hemispatial neglect results when a stroke disrupts the balance between the two hemispheres of the brain," study author Giacomo Koch, MD, PhD, of the Santa Lucia Foundation in Rome, Italy, said in a press release. "A stroke on one side of the brain causes the other side to become overactive, and the circuits become overloaded."

The team studied 20 patients suffering from hemispatial neglect.  Ten of the patients received 10 sessions of magnetic stimulation over two weeks, while the other 10 received a placebo treatment.

Both of the groups also received the current treatment that uses a computer and pen-and-paper training.

Those who received the magnetic stimulation improved on the test by 16 percent at the end of treatment, and by 22 percent two weeks later.

The study also showed that the overactive circuits had gone back to normal in those who received the stimulation, versus those who did not.

"This study represents an important step forward in the effort to find ways to help people rehabilitate from hemispatial neglect after stroke," Heidi M. Schambra, MD, of Columbia University Medical Center, who wrote an editorial on the study, said in a press release. "Beyond its direct effect on people's visual-spatial abilities, hemispatial neglect also interferes with people's efforts to recover their cognitive abilities and movement."

The research was published online in the journal Neurology.


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