Small-Scale Study Shows Promise with Alzheimer's Patients Treated with Magnetic Therapy

Using magnetic therapy to treat people with Alzheimer's Disease.
The application of  magnets to the brains of Alzheimer's patients can help them to better comprehend what others say to them, The Independent has claimed.  This claim is based on a small-scale scientific study of an experimental magnetic therapy method called rTMS, which some people believe has the potential to reorganize brain cells, resulting in improved neurological functioning.

Over a period of about four weeks, five patients were treated with rTMS, and five were treated with a fake treatment for two weeks, followed by two weeks of treatment with actual rTMS.  The rTMS was applied to the region of the brain known to be integral for both speech and communication, which often becomes impaired during over the course of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. After two weeks, those patients treated only with rTMS displayed improvement in sentence comprehension. Those receiving the fake treatment did not show any improvement in this regard. The fake group then improved a similar amount after two weeks of real rTMS.

Unfortunately, the method did not improve other language abilities, such as speaking, cognitive function, or memory function.  Also, the design of this small-scale study means that it can't tell us about the long-term effects, or potential harmful side-effects from rTMS. While the use of rTMS in cases of dementia will be of interest to neuro-scientists, it should be viewed as an experimental technique until large-scale, longer-term studies can do further evaluation.

The study was carried out by researchers from the IRCCS Centro San Giovanni di Dio Fatebenefratelli, and other educational and research institutes in Italy. The research was supported by a project grant from the Italian Ministry of Health and the Associazione Fatebenefratelli per la Ricerca (AFaR) research foundation.  It was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

Magnetic Therapy May Be Useful for Hard-to-Treat Depression

Treating depression using magnetic therapy.
Using magnetic fields in order to stimulate specific regions of the brain may be able to help alleviate depression in some people who have not experienced adequate results from using antidepressants, new research has found.

Researchers administered magnetic therapy to half of a group of 190 adults who had experienced depression for a period of at least three months, but less than five years, and who had taken prescribed medicine for their depression, but did not experience sufficient, positive results. The other half of the study group was given a placebo treatment - simulated magnetic therapy that was not distinguishable from the actual therapy, the researchers said.

After three weeks, about 14% of the patients in the group who were receiving actual magnetic therapy reported that they were no longer experiencing depression, compared with only 5% of those who were receiving the fake treatment.

The researchers continued applying the magnetic treatment for three additional weeks for those who continued to remained depressed, and offered the real treatment to the participants who'd received the placebo treatment. After that additional three week period, about 30% reported that they were no longer experiencing depression, according to the researchers.

"We have settled a fundamental question about (TMS) therapy, which is, 'Does it work?'" said the lead author of the study, Dr. Mark George, a professor of psychiatry, radiology and neuroscience at the Medical University of South Carolina. "The answer is 'yes.'"

"In a rigorous, industry-free multi-site trial, with a convincing sham, we found unambiguously that TMS worked better than the sham. It's watershed," George stated.

The findings of the study are published in the May issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

Magnets for Pain Relief

How Do Magnets Relieve Pain?

The concept behind the utilization of therapy magnets in order to provide pain relief, is that by putting magnets in close proximity to areas suffering from pain, the magnetic field produced by the medical magnets will act to help relieve that pain.  Thus far, no conclusive theory exists which explains why or how this may work, but various research suggests a number of possibilities.

Some studies have indicated that nerve cell function has changed while under the influence of magnetic fields, which, in turn, blocks the nerve signals which communicate pain.  Some other theories are that therapeutic magnets may offer relief from pain by increasing the amount of both blood flow and oxygen to tissues, or that magnet therapy for pain balances the growth and death of cells.  An increase in body temperature might also be a factor in how the mechanism of magnetic pain relief works.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is currently funding studies to find out the effects of medical magnets on carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, knee osteoarthritis, and back pain.  Studies elsewhere are experimenting with magnet therapy for all types of disorders and conditions.  Researchers in the UK, because of the cost-effectiveness of magnet therapy and its low incidence of side-effects, compared with other treatments for chronic musculo-skeletal problems, are running a clinical trial to help determine the effects of medical magnets on rheumatoid arthritis.