Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a procedure in which electrical activity of the brain is changed by an alternating magnetic field, through magnetic induction. Simply speaking, a magnetic field from a conducting coil is applied to the area of interest in the brain. The magnetic field induces micro currents in the brain. According to some, this procedure can have numerous clinical benefits.
The Associated Press covers repetitive TMS (rTMS):
She thought of trying magnetic stimulation because MRI brain scans showed that in aphasia patients with a stroke in the left side of the brain, an area on the right side became over-active when the patients tried to describe a picture. Could this be interfering with the brain’s attempts to find a word? She approached Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone, an rTMS expert at Harvard Medical School, because she knew magnetic stimulation can paradoxically be used to calm brain circuits. They launched a study together.
Poduje was one of four patients in the study, all of whom had suffered a stroke at least five years earlier. Researchers focused on their ability to look at drawings of common things like a hammer, cup or a tree, and say what they were seeing.
For the experimental treatment, the researchers pressed an electromagnetic coil to the right temples of their patients, near the over-active brain area, and applied magnetic pulses for 20 minutes, five days a week, for two weeks.
That brought surprisingly durable results. Poduje, for example, went from being able to name what she was seeing in only four out of 20 drawings before the experiment to seven by two months later, and 12 by eight months afterward.
As a group, the four patients showed significant continuing improvement two months and even eight months after the magnetic treatments ended.