BEACON TRANSCRIPT – For the first time, a study team has managed to identify and target the region of the brain involved with hearing voices experienced by some of the people diagnosed with schizophrenia. Thanks to a controlled trial, the team also showed that “zapping” this area might lead to a symptoms improvement in the patients.
Hearing Voices, One of the Best Known Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a long-term, serious mental health problem which comes with a variety of symptoms including muddled thoughts, delusions, hallucinations, or AVH. According to reports, some 70 percent of the people diagnosed with it experience Auditory Verbal Hallucinations or hearing voices at least at some point.
Scientists have suggested using TMS or Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation as a possible way of treating or trying to deal with AVH. Now, a small controlled trial set out to do just so.
Encouraging Study Results, but Still More Needed
French researchers conducted this new study which involved 59 patients. Among them, 33 acted as a control group while the remaining 26 received an active TMS treatment. The team then interviewed all the patients using the Auditory Hallucinations Rating Scale, the standard protocol.
The TMS group then received a series of magnetic pulses over a session conducted twice a day for two days. This was administered based on MRI scans which targeted a specific brain area in the temporal lobe, the one associated with language.
The patients were re-evaluated two weeks later, with the team defining a “significant response” as being an over 30 percent decrease in the standard protocol test score.
Reports show that 34.6 percent of the TMS group patients returned a significant response, compared to just 9.1 percent of the members of the control group.
“This is the first controlled trial to show an improvement in these patients by targeting a specific area of the brain and using high-frequency TMS,” states Professor Sonia Dollfus, the study lead and part of the University of Caen, CHU, France.
She continues by pointing out that these results underline two things. One is that this new study helped prove that science found a “specific anatomical area of the brain” associated with hearing voices.
The other is that an active TMS treatment could make a difference and help with this symptom in at least some of the schizophrenia patients.
However, the professor also points out that the fact that more research is needed before establishing TMS as a treatment for this symptom, especially as its effects on the long-term are still unknown.
Study findings were presented during the ECNP conference taking place in Paris, France. A paper with the results has been accepted for publication in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin.
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