For decades, patients with clinical depression have been almost exclusively treated with antidepressants. However, up to 40 percent of patients do not respond to the medication as their doctors hope. This his leads to patients being prescribed different antidepressants, or, in extreme cases, receiving electroshock therapy. Now, Neurostar is offering patients who do not respond to antidepressants a more mild and more effective option: Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). Neurostar’s TMS works by attaching an electromagnet to the left side of the forehead. The electromagnet then induces currents in neurons in the left prefrontal cortex– an area of the brain in which imaging studies have shown a deficit in activity in depressed patients. The developers of the TMS system believe that by stimulating the area, blood flow and activity in this part of the brain can improve, potentially leading to improved communication between the neurons and the cortex and ultimately helping to stabilize mood.
Prior studies involving TMS have usually shown promising results, but only compared to a placebo group. In a study presented at the American Psychology Association’s annual meeting, patients who had previously been unresponsive to antidepressants were divided into two groups. One group received TMS treatment, while the other group was given new antidepressants. Of the former group, 53 percent saw an improvement in their depression, compared to only 38 percent in the latter group. The researchers pointed out that close to 90 percent of patients in the TMS group were still taking their old antidepressants, but this shows promise for the use of TMS either alone or in conjunction with a patient’s antidepressants. Finally, and perhaps the best news for patients who are considering this treatment, the side effects were significantly lower than those for antidepressant medication (which often includes changes in weight, lowered sexual drive, nausea and suicidal thoughts)– the most common complaint was a mild headache.
(Source: Popular Science)