National schizophrenia TMS trial planned

NEW HAVEN, Conn., Mar 9, 2006 (UPI) -- Yale University researchers are recruiting schizophrenic patients nationally for a clinical trial involving the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

TMS is being investigated for its possible role in helping still the voices that are so troubling to some schizophrenics.

"These hallucinations, which consist of spoken speech that are labeled 'voices' by patients themselves, are often very disabling and resistant to currently available medication therapies," said Dr. Ralph Hoffman, a Yale psychiatry professor and principal investigator of the study.

Each study participant will be flown to New Haven, where they will stay on a research unit during the 5- to 8-week clinical trial.

Researchers say TMS generally is painless and is experienced as a knocking sensation. It is administered while people are awake by positioning an electromagnetic coil on their scalp.

"It appears that stimulating populations of neurons once per second with TMS over many minutes modestly reduces the capacity of these neurons to activate each other," Hoffman said. "As a result, neural populations as a whole become less reactive or excitable.

"Our study findings suggest hallucinations can be curtailed using this approach without interfering with normal brain function," he added.