Magnetic Stimulation Aids Stroke Recovery

Transcranial magnetic stimulation stimulates nerve cells to help stroke recovery

(RxWiki News) After a stroke it is common for patients to awake to find that they are unable to see or recognize anything on the body's left side. Called hemispatial neglect, there have been few effective treatments.

Magnetic stimulation of the nerve cells in the brain could aid stroke sufferers in recovering from the condition. Currently the only available treatment focuses on training attention through manual writing tasks.

"Talk to your neurologist about treatment options for hemispatial neglect."

Dr. Giacomo Koch, a study author from the Santa Lucia Foundation in Italy, said the treatment is based on the idea that hemispatial neglect happens when a stroke disrupts the balance between the brain's two hemispheres. A stroke on one side of the brain causes one side to become overactive and overload the circuits.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation requires use of a large electromagnetic coil against the scalp, which creates electrical currents to stimulate nerve cells.

During the study researchers enrolled 20 patients with hemispatial neglect, with 10 receiving magnetic stimulation and the other half receiving a sham treatment with a dose of stimulation too low to reach nerve cells. Each received 10 treatment sessions over a two-week period. Both groups also participated in conventional computer, and pencil and paper training.

All participants were given tests on their ability to process information at the conclusion of the treatment and two weeks later. Patients who received magnetic stimulation had improved 16 percent at the end of treatment and 22 percent two weeks later.

The control group did not report improvement.

Investigators also found that the overactive circuits returned to normal in patients who received the magnetic stimulation, but not in the other group.

“This study represents an important step forward in the effort to find ways to help people rehabilitate from hemispatial neglect after stroke,” said Dr. Heidi M. Schambra, a Columbia University Medical Center physician who wrote an editorial regarding the research.

The study, which was funded by the Italian Ministry of Health, was published in the Dec. 13 issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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Review Date: 
December 12, 2011