Stroke results in the development of an imbalance between the brain’s two hemispheres. While one hemisphere becomes overactive, the activity of the other hemisphere gets disrupted. This is called as hemispatial neglect. Until now, patients suffering from this condition worked to improve their attention and concentration with the help of pen paper activities or computers. However, a new study, published online in the December issue of the journal Neurology, states that the condition can be successfully treated with the help of magnetic stimulation of the neurons of the affected part of the brain.
Trans cranial magnetic stimulation, wherein neurons are stimulated with the help of electric current generated by a large electromagnetic coil placed against the scalp, helps in putting the disrupted neurons back on track. The study, led by Dr. Heidi M. Schambra from the Columbia University Medical Center, was carried upon 20 patients suffering from hemispatial neglect. The patients were randomly divided into two groups- the first group received magnetic stimulation of the brain along with conventional rehabilitation, while the other group received fake sessions of magnetic stimulation apart from the normal treatment. The patients received ten sessions of stimulation spread over two weeks.
The patients were made to undergo tests meant for measuring their visual-spatial skills, attention and concentration. These tests were performed before the start of the treatment, immediately after the completion of the treatment, and two weeks thereafter. It was noticed that all the patients scored an average of 170 marks at the start of the treatment. However, by the time the treatment was completed, the score of the patients who had received magnetic stimulation improved by 16% compared to those who received fake magnetic stimulation. This percentage improved by 22% by the end of two weeks after the completion of the treatment. Though further studies are required in this field, the results of the present studies have made the researchers believe that trans cranial magnetic stimulation of the brain is definitely of some help to the patients suffering from hemispatial neglect.