Sparking brain beats blues

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) - a non-invasive technique that excites neurons in the brain by magnetic pulses introduced through the scalp - is a safe and effective non-drug treatment for depression, a study suggests.

Current antidepressant therapies fail to provide adequate relief in at least a third of depressed individuals. Several small studies have shown TMS to be effective in managing depression, while other studies have produced mixed results.

Dr. John P. O'Reardon from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and colleagues investigated whether 4 to 6 weeks of TMS was safe and effective in the treatment of 325 patients with major depressive disorder who had not benefited from prior antidepressant treatment.

Patients were assigned to five 35-minute sessions per week, either with active TMS or with sham TMS.

After 4-6 weeks, response and remission rates with active TMS were approximately twice those of sham TMS.

Significant improvements
Active TMS was associated with significant improvements in depressive symptoms as well as in doctor-rated global illness severity. Patients reported noteworthy improvement in their mood and overall feelings.

O'Reardon and colleagues say few patients dropped out of the study -- an indication that the treatment was well-tolerated. There were no deaths, seizures, or changes in hearing.

These results, the investigators conclude, indicate that TMS is a "novel alternative" in the treatment of depression.

SOURCE: Biological Psychiatry, December 1, 2007. – (Reuters Health)

Read more:
New device short-circuits migraines
Magnetic stimulation alters brain

December 2007

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