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Brain Stimulation Seems to Boost Language Skills in Alzheimer's Patients
Date:6/24/2010

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, June 24 (HealthDay News) -- People with Alzheimer's who are losing their language skills may see some improvement by using a technique called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), early research by an Italian team suggests.

The noninvasive procedure delivers a series of rapid magnetic pulses at frequencies up to 100 Hz to the brain. Earlier studies have found that these pulses can change brain activity, depending on the frequency, the researchers explained.

Though "preliminary," the new findings "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," according to lead researcher Maria Cotelli, from IRCCS Centro San Giovanni di Dio Fatebenefratelli in Brescia.

The report is published in the June 24 online edition of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

For the study, Cotelli's team tried rTMS in 10 patients with moderate Alzheimer's disease. The researchers randomly assigned the patients to four weeks of rTMS at 20 Hz or two weeks of a dummy treatment followed by two weeks of rTMS. Pulses were delivered to the prefrontal lobes of the brain.

The people in the study had their memory, executive functions and language tested at the start of the study, after two and four weeks of treatment, and again after eight weeks.

After two weeks, the researchers found a significant difference between the two test groups in terms of their ability to understand spoken language.

Among people who underwent rTMS, the number of correct answers on a comprehension test went from 66 percent to more than 77 percent, while among those who did not receive the treatment the scores remained unchanged.

After the last two weeks of treatment, those who had not received rTMS initially
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