Magnetic Stimulation Alters Brain

Technique could one day be used for Parkinson's, stroke victims

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THURSDAY, Jan. 20, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- Just two minutes of magnetic stimulation can alter the brain for an hour, according to a University of College London (UCL) study in the Jan. 20 issue of Neuron.

The UCL team has been studying methods to improve a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). They're currently exploring the use of their adapted version of TMS as a possible treatment for Parkinson's disease or stroke.

In this study, the researchers outline how they found ways to improve TMS so that only a brief period of stimulation produces effects on the brain that last for an hour or more.

Longer-lasting effects may enable TMS to be used to modify brain activity in order to treat a wide range of brain problems, ranging from depression to brain damage.

TMS involves the use of a magnetic coil that's held outside the skull. This coil, which can be moved over different parts of the head, creates magnetic fields that induce tiny electrical currents inside the brain. These electrical currents alter the activity of neural pathways, stimulating or inhibiting activity in different areas of the brain.

"Now that we have improved the technique, we can use it to explore whether stimulation of damaged areas in stroke patients' brains can help speed up their recovery," Prof. John Rothwell, of UCL's Institute of Neurology, said in a prepared statement.

"Alternatively, it may be that, in some patients, the 'healthy' side of the brain interferes with recovery by the damaged side, so that another approach would be to reduce its activity and stop it competing for control," he added.

More information

We Move has more about Parkinson's disease.

SOURCE: University College London, news release, Jan. 19, 2005


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