The promise of transcranial magnetic stimulation

Aphasia is the loss or impairment of the ability to speak or write, and it can result from damage to the area of ​​the brain that controls language expression and comprehension. Damage can be the result of a stroke, head injury, brain tumor, infection, or dementia.

Roy Hamilton, MD, associate professor of neurology and physical medicine and rehabilitation, and director of the BrainSTIM Center. (Photo: Ben Medicine News)

Currently, the only treatment for aphasia is speech and language therapy, which helps patients learn other ways to communicate. However, research led by Penn Medicine shows that transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) may help stimulate brain repair by helping the brain “reorganize” signals around the damaged area.

TMS is a non-invasive technology that excites nerve cells in the brain via magnetic pulses that pass through the scalp from coils of wire. It has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of major depression since 2008, and pain associated with some migraines since 2013. In 2020, Penn launched the Brain Science, Translation, Innovation, and Modification (brainSTIM) center, which includes A team of leading neuroscientists, neuroscientists, psychiatrists, psychologists and engineers at the University of Pennsylvania are using neuromodulation techniques to research, repair, and enhance the function of the human brain – the first multidisciplinary multidisciplinary center of its kind in the region.

Currently, TMS is only approved to treat a limited number of conditions. Although not yet available to patients, researchers at Penn Medicine hope that their ongoing studies will demonstrate broader applications of this innovative, non-invasive treatment method, and stress the importance of continued funding for further research.

“Imaging reveals that people tend to rely on the left side of their brain for language, but patients with aphasia actually use both. This tells us that brain function is much more fluid than we previously thought,” said Roy Hamilton, associate professor of Neuroscience and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and Director of the STIM Brain Center at the Perelman School of Medicine. “Our research, which is currently in phase 2 clinical trials, shows promising evidence that when we use TMS to target damaged areas of a patient’s brain that cause aphasia, the brain is able to recruit different, healthy parts of itself, create new pathways, and bypass the affected area. ,” he explains.

This story was written by Kelsey Odorczyk. Read more in Ben Medicine News.

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