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Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
Date:5/3/2010

Called a gentler form of electroshock, treatment yielded 'watershed' results, researcher says

MONDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- Using magnets to stimulate the brain may ease depression in people who have not found relief from antidepressants, new research has found.

"We have settled a fundamental question about [transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS] therapy, which is: 'Does it work?'" said the study's lead author, Dr. Mark George, a professor of psychiatry, radiology and neuroscience at the Medical University of South Carolina. "The answer is 'yes.'"

The researchers administered the magnet therapy to half of a group of 190 adults who had been depressed for at least three months, but not longer than five years, and who had taken medication for depression but were not helped. The others were given a sham treatment -- simulated magnet therapy that was mostly indistinguishable from the real thing, the researchers said.

After three weeks, about 14 percent of those receiving magnet therapy were no longer depressed, compared with 5 percent who were getting the fake treatment.

The researchers continued the magnet treatment for three more weeks for those who were still depressed and also offered the real treatment to participants who'd gotten the sham treatment.

After that period, about 30 percent were no longer depressed, the researchers said.

"In a rigorous, industry-free multisite trial with a convincing sham, we found unambiguously that TMS worked better than the sham. It's watershed," George stated.

The findings are published in the May issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

Psychiatrists have been interested in the possibilities of treating depression with magnet therapy for more than a decade, the experts said. Magnets are believed to work by creating electrical currents in the nerve cells in the left prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain involved
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