A study called Effects of Noninvasive Brain Stimulation on Language Networks and Recovery in Early Poststroke Aphasia, published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke on June, 27 revealed non-invasive brain stimulation can aid language recovery, improving rehabilitation results in patients with aphasia.
The study lead by Alexander Thiel, M.D. involved 24 participants who suffered from aphasia, a condition which affects around 30 percent of stroke survivors. Aphasia is caused by a stroke in the language-related parts of the brain, which results in difficulties reading, writing and speaking. During the experiment, 13 out of the 24 patients received non-invasive brain stimulation on the right side of the brain together with 45 minutes of regular speech therapy (the method regularly used to aid patients with aphasia). The other 11 participants received a placebo form of stimulation together with the 45 minutes of speech therapy.
How Brain Stimulation Works
The non-invasive brain stimulation, in the form of repetitive trans-cranial magnetic stimuli, was aimed at the right-hand side of the brain with the purpose of blocking its functions. The left-hand side of the brain, the one in charge of language, is then more susceptible to learning. The study revealed that those patients receiving stimulation improved their language and comprehension three times more than those who only received speech therapy. The largest improvement was observed in anomia, which is the inability to name objects. Scientists were able to prove that non-invasive brain stimulation produces a greater, observable activation in the language-related areas of the brain.
Importance of the Study
According to the researchers in charge of the study, the next step is repeating the procedures on a larger scale, especially given the results have only been positive and no harm or deterioration was observed in the patients after non-invasive stimulation of the brain.
The study comes as a response to a problem which affects a great percentage of the population. Aphasia can cause trouble finding the right words to express an idea, difficulties understanding spoken or written words or problems finding the right word for an object. In severe cases of aphasia, patients cannot speak or understand what is being spoken. In the United States, 1.7 million people are affected by strokes every year, making it the third leading cause of death in the United States.