Magnetic Pulses Help Stroke Patients Rehab

Researchers are betting that they can help stroke victims heal better by quieting the healthy portion of the brain using transcranial magnetic stimulation.

The team from Ohio State Wexner Medical Center thinks that using the device could help prepare a stroke victim’s brain to get the most out of physical therapy.

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“What we’re doing is allowing the brain to be ready and more receptive for therapies,” lead investigator Dr. Marcia Bockbrader said in a press release. “It’s not a technology that’s limited to just motor recovery after stroke, it seems to be something that has a potential to affect many of the brain circuits that are injured in stroke.”

Think of it as an eye patch for the brain. After a person has a stroke, the healthy side of the brain tries to compensate for the injured portion. The researchers hypothesize that healthy brain action may actually slow the rehab of the injured brain areas. Just as an eye doctor would put a patch over the healthy eye to encourage the weaker eye to regain strength, the stimulating device would quiet the over-compensating area of the brain.

“In our study, we are stimulating the motor areas that are sometimes injured in a stroke,”Bockbrader said in a press release. “This device targets the overactive side, quieting it down enough, so that through therapies, the injured side can learn to express itself again.”

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The study will involve 200 recent stroke victims who have weakness in the arm and hand on one side. The researchers will use the device, called NexStim, to send low-frequency magnetic pulses through the scalp to calm the healthy part of the brain before physical therapy. The exact locations are pinpointed with a technology similar to GPS, according to co-investigator Stephen Page, an associate professor of Health and Rehabilitation at Ohio State.

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