Non-invasive brain stimulation helps stroke patients gain prolonged language recovery

July 2, 2013

On July 2nd, JoVE will publish a video article showing the details of a technique developed by researchers to improve language function in stroke patients with chronic speech-language impairment.

Strokes occur when a brain clot blocks blood flow in , essentially starving groups of neurons of oxygen, which is necessary for normal function. Nearly 130,000 of the 795,000 strokes Americans suffer annually result in death, accounting for roughly 5% of deaths in the U.S. The remaining 665,000 suffer a wide variety of side effects ranging from complete loss of motor function to loss of speech to a catatonic state. Because of the horrific nature of these cerebrovascular events and their consequences, many clinical researchers focus on prevention, rehabilitation and restoration of function for .

A technique developed through these efforts utilizes (TMS) to improve in stroke patients with chronic aphasia. Patients who have undergone this procedure have previously reached a plateau in their ability to produce fluent language, despite signs of understanding and frustration at their inability to communicate.

"The heart of our work is to use non-invasive … to modulate cortical networks that we think are in flux. We think that those circuits in the brain do remodel and that we can tweak them further using non-invasive stimulation," explains Roy Hamilton, M.D., the co-director of the Laboratory for Cognition and Neural Stimulation at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. He continues, "For most people the plays a dominant role in our language capacity. The brain does have the capacity to reorganize itself and rework some of the network and geography that represents specific cognitive skills."

The video will load shortly.
The article as it appears in JoVE. Credit: jove.com

Transcranial magnetic stimulation was first successfully performed in 1985 by Anthony Barker and his colleagues in Sheffield, UK. The technique takes advantage of an aspect of physics derived from the Biot-Savart Law, which states that a current running through a wire generates a magnetic field. Because neurons act like electric wires in the brain, targeting populations of neurons with a magnetic field can modulate their function, making them either more or less reactive. Over the last 28 years TMS has been used in several fields of research but has only recently been used to treat stroke patients.

Initial results from work with a well curated population of stroke patients in Dr. Hamilton's laboratory demonstrate long-term improvement in language production after TMS stimulation. "Using our technique, we can take patients who are in the theoretical plateau period [in recovery] and cause continued improvement. We like to think about it as enhancing their language plasticity." Patients treated with TMS see an extended recovery, where not only will they experience immediate improvement, but they will also gain continued development of their language capacity months after treatment.

Dr. Hamilton is eager for his first JoVE article. "We were intrigued by JoVE's video format and the underlying premise of the journal. There is so much to performing an experiment, in the doing, which is difficult to explain. We like that the journal has the potential to communicate how we do our experiments that might have been lost in a different format."

Explore further: Early brain stimulation may help stroke survivors recover language function

More information: Hamilton, R. H. et. al.; Utilizing Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation to Improve Language Function in Stroke Patients with Chronic Non-fluent Aphasia. J. Vis. Exp. (), e50228, doi:10.3791/50228 (2013). http://www.jove.com/video/50228

Related Stories

Early brain stimulation may help stroke survivors recover language function

June 27, 2013
Non-invasive brain stimulation may help stroke survivors recover speech and language function, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

Magnetic treatment improves stroke patients' ability to communicate

November 15, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Magnetic stimulation of the brain could help improve language skills of stroke survivors with aphasia, according to research by The University of Queensland.

New treatment welcome news for Parkinson's and stroke patients

July 11, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- New research developed by The University of Queensland is set to change the future treatment of speech problems associated with stroke and Parkinson's disease.

Shift of language function to right hemisphere impedes post-stroke aphasia recovery

April 4, 2013
In a study designed to differentiate why some stroke patients recover from aphasia and others do not, investigators have found that a compensatory reorganization of language function to right hemispheric brain regions bodes ...

Teaching the brain to speak again

February 16, 2013
Cynthia Thompson, a world-renowned researcher on stroke and brain damage, will discuss her groundbreaking research on aphasia and the neurolinguistic systems it affects Feb. 16 at the annual meeting of the American Association ...

Stimulating the brain blunts cigarette craving

April 16, 2013
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths globally. Unfortunately smoking cessation is difficult, with more than 90% of attempts to quit resulting in relapse.

Recommended for you

Mechanism explains how seizures may lead to memory loss

October 16, 2017
Although it's been clear that seizures are linked to memory loss and other cognitive deficits in patients with Alzheimer's disease, how this happens has been puzzling. In a study published in the journal Nature Medicine, ...

Study shows people find well-being more so from special places than from mementoes

October 16, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers at the University of Surrey has found that people experience a feeling of well-being when thinking about or visiting a place that holds special meaning to them. They also found that ...

fMRI scans reveal why pain tolerance goes up during female orgasm and shows brain does not turn off

October 13, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers at Rutgers University has determined why women are able to tolerate more pain during the time leading up to and during orgasm. In their paper published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, ...

Neuroscientists identify genetic changes in microglia in a mouse model of neurodegeneration and Alzheimer's disease

October 13, 2017
Microglia, immune cells that act as the central nervous system's damage sensors, have recently been implicated in Alzheimer's disease.

Restless legs syndrome study identifies 13 new genetic risk variants

October 13, 2017
A new study into the genetics underlying restless legs syndrome has identified 13 previously-unknown genetic risk variants, while helping inform potential new treatment options for the condition.

Blueberries may improve attention in children following double-blind trial

October 13, 2017
Primary school children could show better attention by consuming flavonoid-rich blueberries, following a study conducted by the University of Reading.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.