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Strong Magnetic Stimulation Can Help Treating Severe Depression

In severe depression 'Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation' (TMS) maybe the way forward to treat a patient instead of // the more aggressive electro-shock therapy.

Electro-Shock Therapy or ECT is a dreaded therapy used as a last resort to treat severe depression for many decades. However, it can cause amnesia and impair memory for weeks after therapy and requires general anesthesia. In ECT the doctors pass electrical impulses through the patient's head using two electrodes on either side of forehead. This results in an epileptic spasm and it changes the cerebral chemistry in the area of the forehead. The frontal cortex the region underneath the forehead regulates the emotions and steers the psychomotor reflexes of a person. ECT has a bad image. Movies like 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' has shown how actor by Jack Nicholson – an inmate of a psychiatric clinic is subjected to electro-shock to curb his rebellious behavior did not help the ECT image.

Now a less aggressive alternative seems to be provided by what is known as "Tran cranial magnetic stimulation". A new study reports its results with 30 patients in the British Journal of Psychiatry (vol. 186 [2005], pp. 410-416).

The 'Tran cranial magnetic stimulation' (TMS) has few side effects. In TMS the doctors place a coil on the patient's forehead and for several minutes this produces a strong pulsating magnetic field, which in turn produces a flow of electrical current. The magnetic current is weak and it does not trigger an epileptic fit like ECT. The patient remains fully conscious during the treatment.

The Bonn researchers have treated a total of 30 patients suffering from severe depression either with electro-shock or magnetic stimulation. Both methods were found to be equally effective. It was found that every second patient experienced a marked alleviation of their depression a week after their stint of therapy. 'Admittedly, the division of the groups was not made on a random basis, which reduces the reliability of the findings,' Dr. Wagner warns. 'The number of patients taking part is also too small for us to draw final conclusions about the effectiveness.' However, other studies also confirm that the effect of magnetic stimulation is to improve the patient's mood.

The patients who had been treated with magnetic stimulation later did as well as or even better than before therapy. By contrast, the patients taking part in electro-shock suffered memory loss, psychologist Svenja Schulze-Rauschenbach confirmed. Even so, magnetic stimulation is not a miracle cure, since, like electro-shock, it is not a lasting cure for depression. The patients still have to continue to be treated afterwards with other methods. 'TMS is just a new therapeutic tool which can't help in all cases of depression,' adds Michael Wagner, cautioning against excessively high expectations.

Contact: Dr. Michael Wagner michael.wagner@ukb.uni-bonn.de 49-288-2876377 University of Bonn Source: Eureka Alert
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