20 May 2008

Fine-Tuning the Brain: A Deeper Stimulating Flux

Two out of three severely depressed individuals will be resistant to common anti-depressant drugs. Until recently, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) was the next step. Now there is a gentler alternative for drug-resistant clinical depression: deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).
Zangen and his team have tested the helmet on a group of 50 people with severe depression, all of whom showed no improvement after taking antidepressants. During the double-blind clinical trial, half of the patients underwent deep TMS treatment at electrical intensities comparable to standard TMS for five days a week for four weeks, while the other half underwent similar treatments at lower intensities. Each treatment lasted about 20 minutes, during which patients wore the helmet while researchers periodically administered two-second electrical pulses. After the experiment, 50 percent of the patients who received the higher-intensity version reported significant improvements in sleep, appetite, and overall mood, while none of the others did. Most patients in the higher-intensity group also performed better on a standard cognitive test evaluating depression.

...Brainsway is currently seeking approval in Europe and the United States for deep TMS as a therapeutic tool for depression and other brain-related diseases. Zangen anticipates that the technology will be approved in Europe within the next few months. Before it gains FDA approval, the company will have to test the technology on a much wider population. Zangen's team is now mobilizing clinical trials in a number of medical centers in the United States, including Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Medical School.

Meanwhile, Brainsway is designing different coils to tackle brain regions associated with other conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, and drug addiction. Zangen says that in addition to stimulating underactive areas of the brain such as those associated with depression, deep TMS can be used to inhibit brain regions that may be abnormally overactive, such as during addiction. __TechReview
This approach will require a lot more testing before you will be able to use it in the attempt to forget disturbing memories, break damaging addictions, or work your way out of a paralysing depression. Fortunately, it looks as if the research will be done. Psychiatry has too long been stuck in a muddy quagmire of the middle ground--between the primitive dark ages view of "demon possession" and that intriguing world of psychiatric possiblity just over the horizon, where troubled individuals can be routinely put back on more functional and enjoyable paths.

More coverage at the Brain Stimulant Blog


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