In a breakthrough for psychology and mental health, scientists have successfully identified and targeted a region of the brain that is responsible for “hearing voices” in patients with schizophrenia.
French researchers were able to use magnetic pulses to improve the symptoms in patients during a controlled trial, Medical News Today reports. Professor Sonia Dollfus of the University of Caen in France, lead investigator on the study, said,
This is the first controlled trial to precisely determine an anatomically defined brain area where high frequency magnetic pulses can improve the hearing of voices.
Schizophrenia is a serious, long-term condition that is classified by a range of symptoms, including delusions, hallucinations, muddled thoughts and hearing voices or Auditory Verbal Hallucination (AVH). Around 70% of patients experience AVH at some point, and may manifest as internal or external, friendly or threatening, continuously present or “speaking” on occasion only.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) has been suggested as a possible way of treating AVH. TMS sends magnetic pulses to the brain, and has shown to be effective in some psychiatric problems. However, there has not been enough evidence to show that TMS works with AVH patients.
The team worked with 26 patients who received TMS treatment, and 33 who served as the control group. The patients completed the Auditory Hallucinations Rating Scale, which revealed characteristics of the voices they were hearing. The patients who received TMS got 20 Hz high-frequency magnetic pulses over 2 sessions a day. Then they underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) so the pulses could target a specific area in the temporal lobe.
After two weeks, the patients were assessed again, and the researchers found that 34.6% of the patients who were treated showed a significant response – more than a 30% drop in the Total Auditory Hallucinations Rating Scale score.
Dollfus said that this is the first trail to show an improvement in patients, meaning there is a specific area of the brain that can be associated with “hearing voices,” and that treatment with TMS makes a difference.
The results of the study were presented at the ECNP conference in Paris, for publication in Schizophrenia Bulletin: The Journal of Psychoses and Related Disorders.