It’s an experimental procedure that could make life a lot better for up to 30% of stroke survivors. Those are the people left aphasia, a condition that makes it hard to understand language, speak, read or write. Researchers found that stimulating the brain with electrical pulses through the skull may help them recover those abilities.
Patients received 20 minutes of this procedure or sham stimulation followed by 45 minutes of speech and language therapy for 10 days. Researchers at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital say those who received the real treatment recovered twice or three times better than those who didn’t.
This is a non-invasive procedure, in which a handheld magnetic coil is applied to the skull, lining up over a specific area on one side of the brain. The device delivers a low-intensity electrical current which causes muscles to contract, creating a “tingling, twitching” feeling in the scalp.
The idea is to shut down the right side to force the weakened left side of the brain — particularly the areas involved in speech — to do all the work of relearning language.
Not all stroke survivors with aphasia would be candidates for this therapy. People who have seizures or wear a pacemaker would not be eligible, and anyone with complete speech loss would likely not benefit.