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Magnetic brain stimulation may aid MS patients working memory (11/01/17)

Researchers have reported that repeated magnetic stimulation of the brain may help to rebuild the brain’s network in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). It is believed that it could help to improve working memory in particular, which is required for day-to-day tasks such as mental calculations. 

The findings are a result of the study ‘rTMS Affects Working Memory Performance, Brain Activation and Functional Connectivity in Patients with Multiple Sclerosis’, which was published by the journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. 

Repetitive Transcranial Magnet Stimulation (rTMS) is currently used in the US as treatment for depression and anxiety. Approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, the procedure involves doctors placing an electromagnetic device on the patient’s scalp, which sends impulses to specific areas of the brain to stimulate activity in that area as a result.
The study saw 17 MS patients and 11 healthy individuals, with no signs of impaired memory, test whether rTMS, or a ‘sham’ lower intensity version of this procedure, could also improve the working memory in MS patients. Participants considered at risk of seizures or with brain lesions in particular areas due to MS were excluded from the study.

Before and after the procedure, participants were extensively analysed with imaging and neuropsychological tests to assess their memory status. Each then received three sessions (baseline, real-rTMS and sham-rTMS). Activity in the stimulated area (a region in the prefrontal cortex, at the front of the brain) was assessed by a magnetic resonance (MR) scanner while participants completed a working memory task, so that researchers could measure activity during the task.

Results indicated that, while at baseline there were no differences between the groups, treatment with real-rTMS (but not sham-rTMS) improved working memory, brain activity and connectivity between the prefrontal cortex and other brain areas in MS patients, but not in healthy individuals.

Together, the findings suggest that rTMS induces changes in the efficiency of brain network in patients with MS, “shifting patients’ brain function towards the healthy situation,” the researchers wrote. 

According to the authors, the results obtained imply that rTMS has a potential role in cognitive rehabilitation in MS patients, but they recognise that their study is limited by the small number of participants and the absence of clear cognitive problems between groups. However, more studies are necessary to confirm the preliminary results and the procedure’s safety and efficacy as a treatment for MS. 

Source: Multiple Sclerosis News Today Copyright © 2013-2017 BioNews Services, LLC (11/01/17)

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