For the first time, scientists have precisely identified and targeted an area of the brain which is involved in “hearing voices,” experienced by many patients with schizophrenia. They have been able to show in a controlled trial that targeting this area with magnetic pulses can improve the condition in some patients. This early clinical work is presented at the ECNP conference in Paris on Tuesday 5th September, with later publication in Schizophrenia Bulletin*.
“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,” said lead researcher, Professor Sonia Dollfus (University of Caen, CHU, France).
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Schizophrenia is a serious long-term mental health problem. People with schizophrenia experience a range of symptoms, which may include delusions, muddled thoughts and hallucinations. One of the best-known is hearing voices, also known as Auditory Verbal Hallucination (AVH), which around 70% of people with schizophrenia experience at some point. These voices, may be ‘heard’ as having a variety of different characteristics, for example as internal or external, friendly or threatening, they may be continuously present or present only occasionally, and so on.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) has been suggested as a possible way of treating the hearing of voices in schizophrenia. TMS uses magnetic pulses to the brain, and has been shown to be effective in several psychiatric conditions. However, there is a lack of controlled trials to show that TMS works effectively with AVH sufferers.