Noninvasive magnetic stimulation helps patients with Parkinson’s walk

Korean researchers are using a noninvasive form of magnetic stimulation to help patients with Parkinson’s disease walk, according to results published recently in Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience.

The researchers found the use of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) aids patients with Parkinson’s who experience freezing of gait (FOG), which is an inability to move forward while walking that affects the mobility and balance of about half of all patients with Parkinson’s.

Yun-Hee Kim, MD, PhD, professor in the Department of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine at Samsung Medical Center, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, in Seoul, Korea, and colleagues studied 17 Parkinson’s patients who experienced FOG. In a double blind study, they treated patients for a week with either real or sham high-frequency rTMS and, after a 2-week interval, they switched the patients to the opposite treatment. Patients were assessed before the stimulation began, immediately after the intervention and 1 week after cessation of the intervention for both treatments.

“This study demonstrated that five cumulative sessions a week of 10 Hz high-frequency rTMS was likely to alleviate FOG in patients with [Parkinson’s disease], and the effect continued for a week. Similar results were found in the motor and the gait function,” Kim stated in a press release. “This study provides evidence that the cumulative high-frequency rTMS is a good candidate as an add-on therapy for FOG in [Parkinson’s disease].”

Kim and colleagues mapped a location on each patient’s scalp to simulate the anterior tibialis muscle and used a magnetic stimulator to send 20 pulses of 10 Hz rTMS to the target motor cortex areas of the dominant hemisphere. In the sham stimulation, a coil was used to prevent the magnetic field from stimulating the motor cortex.

The researchers evaluated patients after treatments using the FOG-Q, a self-assessment scale used to evaluate FOG symptoms. Participants also performed the Timed-Up-and-Go (TUG) and the modified Standing-Start 180 Degree Turn Test. The TUG task was repeated twice in each direction, and the entire process was video recorded to quantify FOG.

The post-rTMS FOG-Q and TUG results significantly improved compared with pre-rTMS for patients who underwent the magnetic stimulation and the results continued into the follow-up period. No significant changes were found in patients who experienced the sham treatment.

Reference: Kim YH, et al. Restor Neurol Neurosci. 2015; doi:10.3233/RNN-140489.

Disclosure: See the study for a full list of all authors’ relevant financial disclosures.

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