Brain Magnetic Stimulation Therapies

Globally, depression is the biggest cause of disability. Furthermore, up to half of those suffering from depression are resistant to treatment. With suicide being one of the major causes of mortality in the United States, it is vital to develop a dependable, quick solution to treat depression.

Stanford University researchers believe they have created an effective and quick-acting strategy for treating difficult cases of depression using magnetic brain stimulation. The procedure, which is non-invasive and safe, could be used when other medications or treatments are ineffective.

The use of brain stimulation to treat depression is still relatively new, and many treatments have yet to be proven. However, several researchers believe they could assist those suffering from depression. When medications and psychotherapy fail to help the most severe forms of depression, electrical impulses may. The impulses compensate for erratic brain activity, which may be the source of depression.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression. TMS is typically used when other depression treatments haven’t been effective. This treatment for depression involves delivering repetitive magnetic pulses, so it’s called repetitive TMS or rTMS.

There are several types of brain stimulation, some of which are invasive and need a brain implant, while others are non-invasive. This new study employs a modified version of transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), a non-invasive treatment that employs a magnetic coil positioned near the skull to send pulses into the brain.

The researchers are conducting a larger, double-blind trial in which half of the individuals are given a fake treatment. The researchers are certain that the second experiment will be equally effective in treating those whose condition has not improved despite medicine, talk therapy, or other forms of electromagnetic stimulation.

The treatment is called Stanford Accelerated Intelligent Neuromodulation Therapy, or SAINT. It is a type of transcranial magnetic stimulation that the Food and Drug Administration has approved for the treatment of depression. 

The therapy, according to the researchers, improves on current FDA-approved protocols by increasing the number of magnetic pulses, speeding up the treatment, and tailoring the pulses to each individual’s neurocircuitry. According to numerous depression diagnostic tests, all 21 study participants were profoundly depressed before starting the therapy. Following that, 19 of them scored in the non-depressed range. 

Despite the fact that all of the participants had suicidal thoughts prior to therapy, none of them reported having suicidal thoughts following treatment. Medications, FDA-approved transcranial magnetic stimulation, or electroconvulsive therapy have previously failed to help all 21 individuals. The only side effects of the new therapy were fatigue and some discomfort during treatment, the study reported.



Photo: Andrus Ciprian/Shutterstock


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