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Electrical Brain Stimulation May Help People Speak Again After a Stroke

A new study suggests that electrical stimulation of the brain may help people recover their speech after a stroke. Up to one-third of stroke survivors have aphasia, a condition which impairs their ability to speak, read, write or understand language.

A recent study conducted by Canadian and German researchers employed transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) on patients who experience aphasia caused by stroke. The study involved 24 participants - 13 received TMS and 11 received a placebo treatment. Immediately after treatment all participants received 45 minutes of speech language therapy for 10 days.

Patients who received TMS recovered better from their aphasia than those who received the placebo treatment, according to the lead researcher, Dr. Alexander Thiel. Improvements were two to three times better in those who received TMS.

In TMS a handheld magnetic coil is applied to the skull over a part of the brain which has not been affected by the stroke. The device delivers a low-intensity electrical current which causes muscles to contract. The effects of the TMS last about 30 to 45 minutes, the time during which the participants received speech language therapy.

The TMS procedure shuts down the unaffected side of the brain to force the weakened side of the brain to do all the work and to stimulate neuroplasticity, a process in which the brain forms new connections.

Read the full text of the news article reporting the study here

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