25 October 2023

A way to treat the effects of stroke even years after the stroke has emerged

A study has found that magnetic brain stimulation improved the movement and coordination of a man who suffered a stroke 12 years ago.

Researchers used repetitive magnetic brain stimulation on a man who suffered a cerebellar stroke 12 years ago. It improved his walking speed, balance and coordination. The innovative treatment will help people whose motor functions have been impaired, even years after the stroke.

The patient, a 58-year-old man, had a sudden cerebellar stroke 12 years ago. Despite intensive rehabilitation, he complained of a slow and unsteady gait and difficulties with balance and stability. The man could not stand up unaided and could not bend over to pick up an object from the floor. He used a walker for stability and walked 10 meters at a speed of 0.57 meters per second (m/s) before treatment. The average human speed is 0.61 m/s at a slow pace and 2.28 m/s at a fast pace.

The authors of the new study treated it with rhythmic transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). Conventional rTMS is a treatment method that involves placing a coil on the head that generates magnetic fields that affect a specific area of the brain. In rhythmic TMS (rTMS), a series of pulses are generated; they are delivered repeatedly to achieve a therapeutic effect. Previously, rTMS has been used to treat depression in patients who were not helped by antidepressants or had intolerance to the drugs.

A man was given five daily sessions of rTMS, targeting the cerebellum on the right and left sides. He did not mention any side effects. After five days of treatment, the man's walking speed improved to 0.60 m/s. He could rise from a sitting position without assistance and could easily bend over to pick up a pencil from the floor. The patient reported improved balance and stability when performing activities of daily living such as showering and shaving. He performed these tasks without the use of hand supports, which he was unable to do before treatment.

Researchers want to conduct further studies to find out the long-term clinical benefits and explore the underlying neural mechanisms of this innovative treatment.

The study is published in the journal The Cerebellum.
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