Scientists in Australia have demonstrated that magentic stimulation of the brain can help stroke patients regain their speech. The therapy, called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) has been used in the past to treat depression but it's impact on speech recovery in stroke survivors has been dramatic.
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA (RECENT) (AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION) - Wendy Corp had a stroke in 2003. She woke up one morning to find she could not speak.
"I couldn't talk for two years or maybe three years," she said.
Wendy is participating in a trial using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to stimulate the part of her brain that controls speech.
"We're using it for people with speech impairments. We're actually applying a low-frequency form of brain stimulation, to try and reorganise the language systems in the brain," said Lecturer in Speech Pathology at the University of Queensland, Dr Nerina Scarinci.
In the trial, a magnetic coil is placed against the patient's head to generate weak electrical currents in the brain tissue where speech is controlled. The technique has been used in the past to treat mild depression but scientists like Dr Scarinci at the University of Queensland have found that the magnetic stimulation also brings significant improvements to the speech ability of stroke patients.
Wendy Corp is a case in point.
"It was remarkable. I couldn't name things, but now I can. I can talk much better," she said.
"Roughly about 80 percent of patients that receive the brain stimulation reported and showed improvements over time in their speech," said Dr Scarinci.
The researchers say that transcranial magnetic stimulation, when combined with conventional speech therapy, can make asignificant difference in helping stroke patients talk again.