Whenever there’s a new, non-invasive, cutting-edge stroke treatment available, it’s always worth looking into.
Lately repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation has been gaining attention for it’s promising benefits for stroke recovery.
Benefits of Magnetic Brain Stimulation for Stroke Patients
When powerful magnetic stimulation is applied to the brain, it triggers electric currents that activate neuroplasticity.
As you probably know, neuroplasticity is the key to recovery from stroke because it’s how the brain rewires and heals itself.
Although repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) can be used to treat many different stroke side effects, this new therapy is often used to help improve movement after stroke.
Most notably, magnetic brain stimulation has been shown to help stroke patients improve their gait and walk independently again.
How Does It Work?
During rTMS treatment, neurologists wave a powerful magnetic coil over the head where the motor cortex resides.
Image source: National Institutes of Mental Health
This stimulation improves communication between both sides of the brain – not just the affected side.
For a deeper understanding of how rTMS improves movement after stroke, let’s discuss the brain’s ‘go’ and ‘no-go’ signals.
Rewiring the Brain with Magnetic Stimulation
Your brain uses both ‘go’ and ‘no-go’ signals to control your muscles and move the way you intend. To understand this, let’s back up a bit.
Each side of your body is controlled by the opposite side of the brain. That’s why a right side stroke affects the left side of the body and vice versa.
However, all movement requires cooperation from both sides of the brain.
To make one side of your body move, it requires a ‘go’ signal from one hemisphere and a ‘no-go’ signal from the other.
Moving your left hand, for example, requires a ‘go’ signal from your brain’s right hemisphere and a ‘no-go’ signal from your left hemisphere.
Although you’re just moving one side of the body, both sides of the brain must work together.
That’s why stroke rehab exercise often involves equal repetitions on both sides.
How to Get the Most from Magnetic Brain Stimulation
Although magnetic brain stimulation for stroke patients has been proven to improve movement after stroke, your brain still needs extra help to recover.
Dr. Marcie Bockbrader, assistant professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Ohio State, put it like this:
“What we’re doing is allowing the brain to be ready and more receptive for therapies,” said Bockbrader. “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.”
So rTMS is getting the brain ready for therapy, which means that you need to pair it with therapy to see the best results.
Since the brain builds skills through repetition, the most effective therapy incorporates heavy repetition. Home exercise devices like Flint Rehab’s FitMi are designed specifically for that purpose.
Also, repetitive practice isn’t just limited to motor recovery. You can improve most stroke side effects with massed practice.
Interested in Magnetic Brain Stimulation?
If you’re interested in magnetic brain stimulation for stroke recovery, you can try searching for clinical trials in your area.
You can also search online to see if any local clinics or hospitals offer rTMS for stroke recovery. Just be careful.
Because rTMS still needs more research, most magnetic stimulation treatments available are usually for depression. Make sure that you search specifically for stroke recovery.
Clinical trials are often the safest bet. We hope a trial is happening near you.
Have you tried rTMS for stroke recovery? Please leave us a comment below!