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Magnetic Brain Stimulation Might Help Some Stroke Patients
Date:12/14/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Stroke patients suffering from a condition that prevents them from sensing or reacting to anything happening to their left -- whether it's noticing food on a plate or recognizing a person sitting to that side -- may recover faster with magnetic stimulation to the nerve cells in their brain, Italian researchers report.

This inability to process and perceive stimuli on the left side of the body, called hemispatial neglect, is common after a stroke occurring on the right side of the brain, affecting up to 50 percent of patients. The researchers say that the current treatment of attention and concentration training through computer and pencil-and-paper tasks is not useful.

"This problem also affects motor function," explained lead researcher Dr. Giacomo Koch, from the Santa Lucia Foundation in Rome. "It is important to treat not only to speed up cognitive recovery, but also motor recovery."

Most patients recover spontaneously after about a year, he noted. The study was published in the Dec. 13 online edition of Neurology.

In the study, Koch's team randomly assigned 20 patients with hemispatial neglect either to a sham treatment or to 10 sessions of magnetic stimulation over two weeks. All 20 patients also received conventional treatment. Patients were given tests to measure their ability to process information on the neglected side of the body.

In the technique, called transcranial magnetic stimulation, a large electromagnetic coil is placed against the patient's scalp creating electrical currents that stimulate nerve cells.

The researchers found that patients who received the magnetic stimulation had a 16 percent improvement on the tests by the end of two weeks and a 23 percent improvement two weeks later. The test scores of patients who received the sham treatment did not improve.

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