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Magnetic stimulation helps Parkinson's disease patients walk

All the participants in a small study benefited from the treatment.

By Stephen Feller
Nearly 80 percent of patients in advanced stages of Parkinson's disease experience difficulty with motor functions, including walking. Photo by Ocskay Mark/Shutterstock
Nearly 80 percent of patients in advanced stages of Parkinson's disease experience difficulty with motor functions, including walking. Photo by Ocskay Mark/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Magnetic stimulation can help people with Parkinson's disease who experience freezing of gait, an inability to move forward while walking, to regain that and other motor skills, according to a small study in Korea.

Freezing of gait, or FOG, affects about 50 percent of Parkinson's disease patients at least twice a month. Nearly 80 percent of patients with more advanced stages of the disease also experience it at some point.

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Researchers worked with 17 patients to participate in the double-blind study. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either real repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, or rTMS, or a "sham" treatment.

All participants were tested for the ideal place on their scalp where magnetic stimulator could be placed to most ideally stimulate the anterior tibialis muscle on the front of the lower leg. Those who received the real treatment were given 1000 pulses of 10 Hz rTMS five times for a week.

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Researchers assessed the participants before the study was started, immediately after the week of treatment was given, and then a week after the treatment. After a two-week waiting period, the researchers then gave each participant either rTMS or the sham, depending on which they'd already received. The assessments included the patients evaluating themselves, as well as researchers asking them to walk back and forth between predetermined targets.

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"This study demonstrated that five cumulative sessions a week of 10 Hz high-frequency rTMS was likely to alleviate FOG in patients with PD, and the effect continued for a week," Dr. Yun-Hee-Kim, a professor in the department of physical and rehabilitation medicine at Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, said in a press release. "Similar results were found in the motor and the gait function."

The story is published in Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience.

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