Quirks & Quarks

Concussion symptoms reversed in mice using magnetic therapy

Magnetic stimulation has shown promise with brain disorders such as depression, anxiety and PTSD in the past, and now scientists have show it can reverse concussion symptoms in mice.

Magnetic brain stimulation may have potential as a rare treatment for concussion

Concussed mice receive magnetic pulses in portable device resembling a laptop computer. (Changiz Taghibiglou)

Awareness of concussion as a serious health hazard is much higher today than it was, but we've made little progress when it comes to treatment.

Some hope that this might change has come from the lab of Changiz Taghibiglou, an Associate Professor in the Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology at the University of Saskatchewan.  He told Quirks & Quarks host Bob McDonald that he and his colleagues have recently shown positive results on concussion using magnetic brain therapy in mice.

Motor skills of concussed mice were tested on the beam walk apparatus after receiving magnetic therapy. (Changiz Taghibiglou)

Common symptoms of concussion, including loss of balance, memory and cognitive problems, sleep issues and dizziness were all improved in a short period of time.

The attraction of magnetic stimulation

Magnetic stimulation is a noninvasive form of brain stimulation in which a magnetic field is used to induce an electric current in a specific area of the brain. 

Magnetic stimulation has been demonstrated to have therapeutic potential in problems involving the central nervous system, various brain diseases and even mental health issues.

This study was the first time magnetic stimulation had been tested to treat concussion symptoms. In this case, low frequency magnetic stimulation was used to treat mice with concussion symptoms.

Sathiya Sekar, a post-doctoral fellow, exposes concussed mice to the low frequency magnetic stimulation treatment. (Changiz Taghibiglou)

Concussion symptoms reverse in mice

In the study 60 mice were induced with concussion. The mice were anaesthetized and given pain medicine so as to minimize trauma. The mice did, however, experience symptoms similar to humans with concussion, including loss of balance, memory and cognitive issues, and interruption of sleep cycles.

In the therapy experiment, some of the mice were exposed to low levels of magnetic stimulation - which mimic the way brain waves oscillate - for twenty minutes per day over three days.

The rodent's ability to walk in a straight line, navigate a maze, run on a wheel and remember new objects improved every day.

In addition their sleep patterns returned to their normal, pre-concussion state. Concussed mice that did not receive magnetic stimulation did not show the same improvement in symptoms. 

Mice navigate the Rota-rod test device. (Changiz Taghibiglou)

A mouse study with mighty potential

Taghibiglou and his colleagues also found that low frequency magnetic stimulation had biological impacts that might protect the brain from future degeneration. They found proteins that protect the brain from a variety of neurological injuries were restored to their normal level after the stimulation process.

Those proteins protect neurons and stop the progression of post-concussion inflammation and degeneration. 
Taghibiglou points out that this study involved the effects of magnetic stimulation on mild traumatic brain injury only. They did not study severe traumatic brain injury in which there is more substantial brain tissue damage.