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Cause of dizziness explained by magnets

October 24, 2013Cause of dizziness explained by magnets

Dizziness and spatial disorientation can be a life-altering problem for chronic sufferers. Luckily, new medical research using powerful magnets aims to change the way dizziness is treated. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore believe they have pinpointed the cause of dizziness by studying the brain, according to redOrbit.

Dizziness tends to be associated with inner ear damage or changes to vision. However, Dr. Amir Kheradmand, a neurologist at Johns Hopkins, said it is actually a region of the brain that determines whether humans perceive things as being up or down.

His research shows an area in the parietal cortex, which is responsible for processing sensory information, is connected to the dizziness or feeling of floating that people may experience. In the study, researchers said input from the inner ears and the eyes for upright perception can become interrupted, but despite this, the brain naturally knows which direction is up and down.

"Our brain has this amazing way of knowing where we are in space, whether we are upright or tilted at an angle, even if it is completely dark and we can't see anything around us," Dr. Kheradmand said in a statement. "This study suggests there's a small area of neural tissue in the parietal cortex substantially involved in this ability, giving us a place to start thinking about how we may be able to treat people with disorienting dizziness."

Using transcranial magnetic stimulation for dizziness studies
In order to locate this region of the brain that results in dizziness or disorientation, researchers used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), Livescience reported.

This process allowed the researchers to stimulate the brain using currents from electromagnets to temporarily block brain activity in the area that was being studied. During TMS, research participants would have TMS pulses transmitted in 40 seconds as they looked at tilted lines. After the process, all participants reportedly felt their sense of being upright was distorted.

Kheradmand said the process can be used to demonstrate how subconscious perception can be manipulated using a technique that is noninvasive. TMS is also reported to be painless. After seeing their success with tests using healthy participants, researchers hope to use this study to treat patients with chronic dizziness. 

"We're excited that this could someday be a key to helping people who have dizziness and spatial disorientation to feel better," Kheradmand said.

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