TMS Helps Stroke Patients Improve Language Function
A new study done at the Laboratory for Cognition and Neural Stimulation at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School shows that Trans Cranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) can improve language function in stroke patients with chronic speech-language problems.
A stroke (or CVA, as they are referred to in medicine— a cerebral vascular accident) occurs when a brain clot blocks blood flow. That part of the brain “dies”. The majority of stroke recovery occurs in the first year following a stroke, and patients being studied had already plateaued in their abilities with speech.
How does Trans Cranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) work on stroke victims? Current running through a wire generates a magnetic field. And since neurons act like electric wires in the brain, it is thought that targeting populations of neurons with a magnetic field can modulate their electrical activity.
For most people, the left hemisphere plays a dominant role in language capacity. The brain does have the capacity to reorganize itself and rework some of the network and geography that represents specific cognitive skills. Thus, using TMS, researchers hope to “modulate cortical networks that they think are in flux.”
Initial results with Trans Cranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) show long-term improvement in language. Researchers believe that TMS can take patients in the plateau period of speech recovery and promote continued improvement. Patients treated with TMS might have an extended recovery, gaining continued development of their language capacity months after treatment. They describe this “enhancing language plasticity.”
Trans Cranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) been used to treat stroke patients only recently. But over the last 28 years, it has been used in several other areas of research. In fact, TMS is becoming more important as a way to treat to depressed patients who do not respond to medication. The results vary, but some studies show close to 2/3 of depressed patients responding to TMS. Not all studies have shown this level of success. Even so, this has let to the FDA approving it in the treatment of depression.