In a new study from Stanford University, researchers found a new type of magnetic brain stimulation brought rapid remission to almost 80% of participants with severe depression.
The treatment, known as Stanford accelerated intelligent neuromodulation therapy (SAINT) or simply Stanford neuromodulation therapy, is an intensive, individualized form of transcranial magnetic stimulation.
In the study, remission typically occurred within days and lasted months. The only side effects were temporary fatigue and headaches.
The team tested twenty-nine people with treatment-resistant depression. About half received SAINT, and the rest underwent a placebo procedure that mimicked the real treatment.
After five days of treatment, 78.6% of the participants in the treatment group were no longer depressed, according to several standard methods of evaluation.
The transcranial magnetic stimulation treatment currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration requires six weeks of once-daily sessions.
But only about half of the patients who undergo the treatment improve, and only about a third experience remission from depression.
In the study, SAINT advances that treatment by targeting the magnetic pulses according to each patient’s neurocircuitry and providing a greater number of pulses at a faster pace.
The researchers first used MRI to locate the best location to target within each participant’s brain, the area that regulates executive functions, such as problem solving and inhibiting unwanted responses.
They applied the stimulation in a subregion that has the strongest relationship with the subgenual cingulate, a part of the brain that is overactive in people experiencing depression.
The transcranial magnetic stimulation strengthens the connection between the two regions, facilitating dorsolateral prefrontal cortex control of the activity in the subgenual cingulate.
The researchers also used 1,800 pulses per session instead of 600. And instead of providing one treatment a day, they gave participants 10 10-minute treatments, with 50-minute breaks in between.
Within four weeks after treatment, 12 of the 14 participants who had received the treatment improved, and 11 of them met FDA criteria for remission.
In contrast, only two of the 15 participants in the control group who had received the placebo met the criteria for remission.
The researchers are hoping the new method can be used to quickly treat patients who are at a crisis point. Patients who start taking medication for depression typically don’t experience any reduction of symptoms for a month.
If you care about depression, please read studies about depression drugs may help people with diabetes live longer and the findings of psychiatrists may be unnecessary for many people with depression.
For more information about depression and your health, please see recent studies about this common bowel disease linked to depression and results showing that depression drugs and opioids may double the risk of falls and fractures.
The study is published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. One author of the study is Nolan Williams, MD.
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