Brain stimulation may help depression


A US study suggests repetitive
transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy can produce significant
antidepressant effects in some people.

The National Institutes of
Health-funded researchers said they showed some depressed patients who do not
respond to or tolerate antidepressant medications might benefit from the
non-invasive therapy.

The scientists, led by Dr. Mark
George of the Medical University of South Carolina, said the treatment is
designed to activate underactive mood-regulating brain circuitry by targeting
the top left front part of the brain with an electromagnetic coil that emits
3,000 pulses over a 37-minute session.

It can be safely administered in a
doctor’s office with few side effects — unlike more invasive brain stimulation
treatments, such as electroconvulsive therapy.

The treatment accounted for
remissions in 14 per cent of antidepressant-resistant patients actively
treated, with few side effects. That compared to about 5 per cent for a simulated
treatment, the researchers said.

“This study should help settle
the debate about whether rTMS works for depression,” said Dr. George.
“We can now follow up clues suggesting ways to improve its effectiveness,
and hopefully further develop a potential new class of stimulation treatments
for other brain disorders.”

The study that included Harold
Sackeim of Columbia University and Drs. David Avery of the University of
Washington, Sarah Lisanby of Columbia University and William McDonald of Emory
University appears in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.