July 29, 2013
Magnetic Brain Stimulation Shown To Increase Speech Skills Of Stroke Victims
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Stroke patients who have parts of their brain stimulated with a magnetic coil prior to taking part in speech and language therapy made three times as much progress than those who did not undergo the procedure, according to research recently published in the journal Stroke.
By using a non-invasive technique to temporarily shut down the parts of the brain that function properly, researchers from McGill University in Montreal discovered the side of the brain that had been damaged by the stroke could re-learn linguistic skills, Telegraph Science Correspondent Nick Collins explained on Saturday.
According to Collins, the researchers said the stimulation "should be offered within five weeks of a patient suffering a stroke because genes which allow the brain to recover are most active early on."
He added the treatment is directed toward patients suffering from a condition known as aphasia - a disorder characterized by a disturbance of the comprehension and formulation of language caused by dysfunction in specific brain regions. Twenty to 30 percent of all stroke victims experience aphasia, Collins noted.
Lead author Alexander Thiel, an associate professor of neurology and neurosurgery at the university, and his colleagues recruited two dozen individuals who suffered from aphasia following an ischemic stroke (a stroke which occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked by a clot or clogged artery), explained Linda Searing of the Washington Post.
Each of the 24 patients was randomly assigned to receive either transcranial magnetic stimulation (a procedure in which a magnetic coil is held over the patient's head to stimulate nerve cells) or a false treatment which only stimulated the skin, Searing said. The treatments began five to seven days following the stroke, were administered each day for 20 minutes, and were followed up with 45 minutes of standard speech therapy.
"Standardized testing revealed that, after 10 days of treatment, improvement in speech and language skills was three times greater, on average, for people given the magnetic brain stimulation than for the others," the Washington Post reporter said. "No one given the brain stimulation showed any decline in skills."
"For decades, skilled speech and language therapy has been the only therapeutic option for stroke survivors with aphasia," Thiel told the American Heart Association regarding his research. "We are entering exciting times where we might be able in the near future to combine speech and language therapy with non-invasive brain stimulation earlier in the recovery. This could result in earlier and more efficient aphasia recovery and also have an economic impact."