Schizophrenia, Other Diseases May Respond to Magnetic Stimulation

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Multinational research from the University of Western Australia (UWA) and the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie in France is lending support to the practice of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) for the treatment of epilepsy, schizophrenia, stroke, and Parkinson's disease.

In experimental mice trials, UWA scientists showed that magnetic fields can induce electrical responses in the brain, triggering muscle contractions in predictable parts of the body. This technique has long been used to map out which portions of the brains of stroke victims are still active and functional. In further testing, repeated pulses seem to have effects that persist even after the removal of the magnetic field.

The UWA experiments used a small copper coil about the size of a mouse's head to deliver magnetic pulses from a generator through the skull into the brain. The mice used were "knockout mice", meaning they lack the molecules ephrin-A2 and ephrin-A5. These molecules direct the formation of proper axon connections during the brain's development. Without the molecules, neurons often form incorrectly. This experiment was not meant to simulate any particular human condition, but it does show the efficacy of rTMS for isolating and identifying poorly connected neurons.

Among the mice exposed to repeated rTMS, most experienced a roughly 50 percent drop in neuronal misfirings. Subsequent behavior confirmed this increase in brain function. The next step, say the researchers, is to conduct therapeutic trials on specific human disorders. rTMS trials have been successfully conducted on human depression patients.

Source: Science Network Western Australia

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