Low field magnetic stimulation may offer immediate relief for patients with depression
By Tina Shah, Tech Times | July 23, 1:01 PM
Researchers at Harvard Medical School and Weill Cornell Medical College discovered that a single treatment of low field magnetic stimulation produced mood-elevating effects in depressed patients.
(Photo : Vincent Van Gogh (Wikipedia Commons))
Depression affects every part of a person's life-how he or she thinks, behaves, interacts with other people-and the diagnosis of clinical depression can sometimes require long-term treatment. Combinations of medication and counseling can often help a person through the disorder.
Other treatment options include electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). ECT sends electrical currents through the brain and TMS sends magnetic pulses to the nerve cells that regulate mood and depression.
However, these treatments often take weeks to produce a full response. Researchers have been searching for a way to immediately produce mood-elevating effects. It seems that a lucky accident may have led researchers at Harvard Medical School and Weill Cornell Medical College to an answer.
The researchers found that low field magnetic stimulation (LFMS) produces the desired effects.
The researchers, led by Dr. Michael Rohan, were conducting an imaging study of healthy participants when they found some of the parameters that seem to induce the response of antidepressants. They went ahead and made an LFMS device that would send low strength, high frequency electromagnetic waves to the brain and tested it on depressed patients. According to Rohan, LFMS uses only a fraction of the strength of the magnetic fields in TMS and ECT but produces a higher frequency.
63 depressed patients were given the LFMS treatment. In a randomized order, some patients were given a real treatment and some were given a fake in which the electromagnetic fields were deactivated.
"An immediate and substantial improvement in mood was observed in the patients who received real LFMS, compared to those who received the sham treatment. There were no reported side effects," said a statement.
The results show that this method, as well as the designed device for delivering it, might be effective in helping depressive patients find relief immediately, such as in emergency situations.
The study was published in the journal Biological Psychiatry. The editor of the journal, Dr. John Krystal, explains that the finding that weak electrical stimulation can alleviate depressive symptoms is quite surprising, but the case that Rohan and colleagues make is "compelling" and should be further studied.
Rohan's study only administered a single LFMS-treatment to patients, so additional studies are already underway to determine the effects of multiple treatments. Other aspects of the treatment that will soon be researched include how long lasting the effects of the treatment are, and what other parameters produce the best LFMS response.