Brain stimulation technique boosts language ability in Alzheimer's patients

Jun 23, 2010

A brain stimulation technique, known as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, boosts the language ability of patients with Alzheimer's disease, suggests preliminary research, published online in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, or rTMS for short, is a non-invasive technique that involves the delivery of a rapid succession of magnetic pulses in frequencies of up to 100 Hz.

Previous research has shown that this can alter , depending on the frequency of the stimulation.

The technique, which was applied to the prefrontal lobes for 25 minutes each time at a frequency of 20 Hz, was tested in 10 patients with moderate .

Half were randomly assigned to receive four weeks of rTMS (five days a week), and half were given a dummy treatment for two weeks, followed by two weeks of rTMS.

Each participant was 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.

Significant differences emerged between the two groups after two weeks in respect of the ability of participants to understand spoken language.

The percentage of correct answers after a comprehension test rose from 66% to over 77% among those given rTMS, whereas there was no change in those given the dummy technique.

There was no further change after four weeks, but the improvements were still evident at eight weeks.

rTMS did not alter other language abilities or other cognitive functions, including memory, which suggests that the technique is specific to the domain of the brain, when applied to the prefrontal lobes, say the authors.

It is not completely clear how the technique works. Rhythmic stimulation may alter cortical activity in the brain, so readjusting unhealthy patterns induced by disease or damage, suggest the authors.

There is some evidence to back this up as imaging studies of 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 "reorganised" as a result.

"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," they conclude.

Explore further: Neurons can be reprogrammed to switch the emotional association of a memory

More information: www.jnnp.bmj.com

Related Stories

The art of mindreading -- empathy or rational inference?

May 04, 2010

The ability to infer what another person is thinking is an essential tool for social interaction and is known by neuroscientists as "Theory of Mind" (ToM), but how does the brain actually allow us to do this? We are able ...

Recommended for you

Emotional adjustment following traumatic brain injury

Oct 24, 2014

Life after a traumatic brain injury resulting from a car accident, a bad fall or a neurodegenerative disease changes a person forever. But the injury doesn't solely affect the survivor – the lives of their spouse or partner ...

New ALS associated gene identified using innovative strategy

Oct 22, 2014

Using an innovative exome sequencing strategy, a team of international scientists led by John Landers, PhD, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School has shown that TUBA4A, the gene encoding the Tubulin Alpha 4A protein, ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Tangent2
1 / 5 (2) Jun 24, 2010
Interesting how a few years ago if you would have said that putting magnets on your head would heal you then people would have thought you to be crazy. Check out http://fathernatu...ears.php for other information about Alzheimers and natural cures.