Magnetic pulses zap ‘voices’ in schizophrenia patients

Magnetic pulses can mute the voices that torment schizophrenia sufferers, a new study has found.

More than a third of patients who underwent the pioneering treatment in a trial experienced ‘significant relief’.

The technique, devised by French experts, involves bombarding a part of the brain that can trigger the auditory hallucinations in schizophrenics.

It is the first time scientists have pinpointed the area of the brain that is responsible for making sufferers hear voices. 

The researchers, based at the University of Caen, said twice daily sessions over two days improves the condition within a fortnight. 

The new technique, devised by French experts, involves bombarding a part of the brain that can trigger the auditory hallucinations in schizophrenics

Lead author Professor Sonia Dollfus said: ‘We now can say with some certainty that we have found a specific anatomical area of the brain associated with auditory verbal hallucinations in schizophrenia.

‘Secondly, we have shown that treatment with high frequency Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) makes a difference to at least some sufferers.

‘Although there is a long way to go before we will know if TMS is the best route to treat these patients in the long-term.’ 

TMS using uses magnetic pulses to the brain had been suggested as a possible way of treating the hearing of voices in schizophrenia.

It has been shown to be effective in several psychiatric conditions but there had been no controlled trials to show if it worked for people hearing voices.

How was the study carried out? 

The study involved 26 patients who received TMS treatment, and 33 as a control group, who received a placebo. 


Women who diet during pregnancy are 30 per cent more likely to have babies who develop schizophrenia later in life, said researchers in March.

The study of more than half a million expectant mothers found that those who did not gain the medically recommended amount of weight – between one-and-a-half and two stone – had a significantly greater risk of having a child who developed the severe mental illness in adolescence.

The Swedish team behind the study claimed that celebrity-led pressure on women to ‘snap back’ after giving birth was partly to blame.

Supermodel Gisele Bundchen caused controversy in 2013 when she flaunted her washboard abs on the cover of Vogue Brazil in shots taken just two months after giving birth to her youngest daughter, Vivian.

A number of other high-profile women, including the Duchess of Cambridge and Hollywood actress Jessica Alba, have also faced criticism for dramatically slimming down within weeks of giving birth.

They received a series of 20 Hz high-frequency magnetic pulses over two sessions a day for two days. Brain scans were also taken.

The pulses targeted an area in the temporal lobe associated with language. 

The participants were interviewed using the standard protocol – the Auditory Hallucinations Rating Scale – which revealed most of the characteristic features of the voices which they were hearing.

What did they find? 

After a fortnight the patients were evaluated and 34.6 per cent of the patients who had TMS showed a significant response.

Only 9.1 per cent of patients in the sham group responded, according to the study that will be published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin.

‘Significant response’ was defined as a more than 30 per cent decrease in the Total Auditory Hallucinations Rating Scale score.

The findings were presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology conference in Paris. 

What is schizophrenia? 

Figures suggest around 1 per cent of the world population suffer with schizophrenia, with 220,000 diagnosed in England and Wales.

Seven in ten hear voices at some point, making auditory hallucinations of the most common symptoms.

These voices, may be ‘heard’ as having a variety of different characteristics, for example as friendly or threatening.