Stimulating the brain with a dose of low-frequency magnetism reduces the number of seizures suffered by severe epileptics, a study has found. Researchers at Gottingen in Germany used a coil which was placed on the side of the head to direct the magnetic pulses to the brain.
The use of high-frequency pulses has been blamed for triggering epileptic seizures, and this is some of the first work using low-frequency magnetism.The ten patients in the Gottingen study suffered an average of more than 12 fits a week but, after the magnetic treatment, nearly all suffered fewer seizures.
One patient showed a 25% decrease, three improved by between 20% and 50%, and in three patients, the number of seizures was reduced by more than half. However, the effects of the treatment wore off after six to eight weeks, and two patients suffered "petit mal", or partial seizures directly after treatment.
Epilepsy is caused by overactivity in one part of the brain, which overloads the nerve "circuitry" and causes seizures. The areas most usually affected are the temporal lobes, at the side of the brain and the frontal lobe. There are two types of fit. One, the partial seizure, is associated with a change in consciousness - often the only external clue of a seizure is that the person affected will merely appear vacant or distracted for a short period.
Partial seizures often originate in the temporal lobe, which is associated with memory, and patients often report experiencing a familiar smell, sound or mental image shortly before, or during the seizure.
The other, more serious seizures are convulsions or "grand mals", which can strike without warning and cause unconsciousness and jerking movements. severity of seizures suffered.
Magnetic stimulation has also been used in the field of mental health where recent research has found it to alleviate some cases of depression.