A new study published online in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry sustains that the symptoms of Alzheimer sufferers can be improved by applying magnets on the patients’ brain.
The preliminary study, which involved just 10 patients, was made by scientists from Brescia and Milan and proved that this method helped patients to understand what is said to them. The technique used by Maria Costelli and her colleagues is called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, which is a non-invasive technique that involves the delivery of a rapid succession of magnetic pulses in frequencies of up to 100 Hz. The TMS was applied to the prefrontal lobes of the Alzheimer’s patients for 25 minutes at a time at a frequency of 20 Hz. Half the patients received daily doses five days a week for four weeks and half received a dummy treatment for two weeks followed by two weeks of TMS.
All the patients were tested for memory, executive functions, such as planning, and language at the start of the study, then after two and four weeks, and again after eight weeks. Tests showed that those who had the full course of treatment scored much higher on comprehension of what was said to them, up from 66 per cent to 77 per cent. The scientists say the technique is “specific to the language domain of the brain when applied to the prefrontal lobes” as did not affect other language abilities or other cognitive functions, including memory. The good part is that there was no further change after four weeks and that the improvement was still evident eight weeks after treatment.
Therefore, the study showed that magnets can alter “cortical activity” in the brain, readjusting unhealthy patterns caused by disease or damage, but it is not absolutely clear how the technique works. It looks that there are some proofs that people with congenital or acquired brain damage have shown that certain areas of the brain seem to be plastic and that cortical activity can be “reorganized” as a result. Besides, the authors conclude that their study is a step forward towards finding a therapy that could bring hope to patients suffering from a neurodegenerative disease. “The present preliminary results … hold considerable promise, not only for advancing our understanding of brain plasticity mechanisms, but also for designing new rehabilitation strategies in patients with neurodegenerative disease.”