Scientists have pinpointed a part of the brain where “voices” torment schizophrenia sufferers, and partially muted them with magnetic pulse treatment.
More than a third of sufferers treated with magnetic pulses in a patient trial experienced “significant” relief.
“We can now say with some certainty that we have found a specific anatomical area of the brain associated with auditory verbal hallucinations in schizophrenia,” the research team said.
“Secondly, we have shown that treatment with high frequency Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) makes a difference to at least some sufferers.”
Further research must be done to confirm the usefulness of TMS as a treatment in the longer term. The results of the trial were presented in Paris at a conference of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology.
The trial compared 26 schizophrenic patients who received active TMS and 33 patients who received dummy or placebo treatment. The first group was given a series of magnetic pulses over two sessions a day for two days to the part of the brain’s temporal lobe associated with language.
Two weeks later, participants were evaluated on the voices they were hearing. Nearly 35 per cent of the TMS patients reported a “significant” improvement.
“Hearing voices” can be one of the most disturbing symptoms for people with schizophrenia and those close to them. According to the World Health Organisation, schizophrenia affects more than 21 million people worldwide.