Low Strength Brain Stimulation May Be Effective For Depression
Brain stimulation treatments, like electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), are often effective for the treatment of depression. Like antidepressant medications, however, they typically have a delayed onset. For example, a patient may receive several weeks of regular ECT treatments before a full response is achieved.
Thus, there is an impetus to develop antidepressant treatments that act to rapidly improve mood.
Low field magnetic stimulation (LFMS) is one such potential new treatment with rapid mood-elevating effects, as reported by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Weill Cornell Medical College.
“LFMS is unlike any current treatment. It uses magnetic fields that are a fraction of the strength but at higher frequency than the electromagnetic fields used in TMS and ECT,” explained first author Dr. Michael Rohan.
Indeed, the potential antidepressant properties of LFMS were discovered accidentally, while researchers were conducting an imaging study in healthy volunteers. This led Rohan and his colleagues to conduct a preliminary study in which they identified the imaging parameters that seemed to be causing the antidepressant effect.
They then designed and constructed a portable LFMS device, which delivers a low strength, high frequency, electromagnetic field waveform to the brain. The next step was to test the device in depressed patients, the results of which are published in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry.