By Serena Gordon
THURSDAY, February 20, 2020 (HealthDay News) – A non-invasive brain magnetic stimulation device that is used less than an hour a day may increase activity near areas of the brain injured by a stroke, a small preliminary study suggests .
Those improvements in brain activity could lead to increased motor function in people who have suffered a stroke, the researchers said.
"We were excited to see a strong indication of improved motor function even in this small study. There is hope for stroke survivors with chronic motor disability," said lead study author Dr. David Chiu, director of the Eddy Scurlock Center Stroke of the Houston Methodist Hospital.
The study included 30 survivors of ischemic stroke. An ischemic stroke is one in which a blood vessel is blocked, which prevents blood flow to the brain. If blood flow is not restored quickly, brain damage occurs.
All study volunteers had some brain damage and, as a result, had weakness on one side of their body.
Chiu said the researchers chose people who were at least three months after the stroke because spontaneous improvements generally do not occur after that. That means that any observed improvement could be attributed to the device.
The device, which is controlled with a smartphone, looks like a bathing cap with multiple magnetic microstimulators connected. The study volunteers used it for 40 minutes per session and completed 20 sessions for four weeks.
Previous studies have shown that magnetic stimulation of the brain can promote recovery of motor function after stroke, the researchers said. What's new here is that therapy can be done at home. Magnetic stimulation activates nerve cells in the brain and can induce changes in them, Chiu explained.
Half of the patients were treated with brain stimulation. The other half received a placebo treatment.
The study team measured brain magnetic resonance activity before, immediately after, and one month after treatment with the device.
Active treatment produced significantly greater increases in brain activity, almost nine times more than placebo treatment. The researchers also saw some improvements in things like grip strength and walking speed. These changes continued during the three-month follow-up.
But the study was not large enough to show that transcranial stimulation therapy improved motor function, according to Chiu. The findings should be confirmed in a larger study, he said.
No complications related to the device were reported.
Dr. Salman Azhar, director of the stroke program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, reviewed the findings.
"It has been shown that magnetic stimulation improves neuroplasticity [the ability of nerve cells to adapt], but it has been very cumbersome to deliver the patient, "he said." This device has found a way to do it as a portable device and can allow for better recovery after a stroke in a subset of patients. "
Azhar said that if this treatment were approved for stroke patients, it could probably be used within three months after a stroke. But, he said, patients would need to see an improvement in their function, such as a better ability to walk, to be useful.
Dr. Mitchell Elkind, president-elect of the American Heart Association, also reviewed the findings and said that a device that patients could use at home would be beneficial.
"They don't necessarily have to come to the clinic or academic medical center to have this type of treatment applied to them," said Elkind, adding that transcranial magnetic stimulation is an "exciting potential approach" to help people with stroke. Recovery.
The findings were scheduled to be presented today at the International Stroke Association Conference of the American Stroke Association in Los Angeles. The findings presented at meetings are generally considered preliminary until they are published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The study was funded by the Translational Research Initiative of the Houston Methodist Research Institute and Seraya Medical, LLC, the company that develops the device. Seraya is planning a larger device test.