A study by The University of Queensland has revealed that language skills of individuals who survived a stroke with aphasia could be improved with magnetic stimulation of the brain. The study was conducted by Dr. Caroline Barwood, who recently completed her PhD at the University of Queensland School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. Barwood discovered that the language skills of stroke patients following Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) were significantly improved.

TMS is a non-invasive technique that aims to target activity in the brain in order to help restructuring brain areas with the goal of changing language behaviors.

Patients undergoing this treatment have a coil placed on their head which uses electromagnetic induction to activate weak electric currents via a changing magnetic field.

12 individuals who suffered strokes between 1-6 years before the investigation were enrolled to participate in the investigation and were treated at the UQ Center for Neurogenic Communication Disorders Research.

Dr. Barwood explained:

“Eighty percent of patients who were treated with TMS showed improvements in language skills, most notably in expressive language, which includes naming, repetition, and discourse. No language improvements were seen for those patients treated with placebo TMS.”

Directed by an innovative neuronavigational system, the Barwood used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in order to pin point the stimulation site for two sets of five-day treatment.

Barwood measured changes in participants language scores using standardized speech pathology tests. He stated:

“The research strongly demonstrates that TMS may be a very useful and safe treatment method. Overall it has generated exciting discussion regarding the direction of treatment and the considerable impact this may have in the future to decrease the cost of rehabilitation.”

According to Barwood, the method is different to traditional language therapy, which uses behavioral techniques and that in the future these two techniques may be used together.

Numerous journals across fields of neurology and speech pathology have reviewed Dr. Barwood’s PhD, which was also published in peer-reviewed journals; The European Journal of Neurology, Brain and Language, Neurorehabilitation, and Brain Stimulation.

Dr. Barwood explains that even though the results are very positive, she is seeking to continue and extend the current methodology to include a larger sample as a clinical trial.

Written by Grace Rattue