Brain stimulation may help treat depression in older adults

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In a study from Centro Hospitalar de Lisboa Ocidental, scientists suggest brain stimulation should not be overlooked as an antidepressant treatment for older adults.

In the U.S., rTMS was cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2008 to treat patients suffering from treatment-resistant depression, or in other words, patients who do not respond to standard antidepressants.

It has since been approved or recommended in several other countries.

The main advantage of rTMS is that it is a non-invasive, drug-free, and safe alternative treatment that really works: up to half of the patients for whom other antidepressant strategies have not worked will respond to rTMS.

This treatment would seem perfectly suited for older patients, given that they often suffer from various comorbidities and are typically taking several other medications that may complicate the use of regular antidepressants.

However, since the early 2000s, it has been widely believed that rTMS is not beneficial for older patients.

In the study, the team addressed the problem.

They used data from a multi-center study, one of the largest samples of patients who had received rTMS to treat depression (more than 500 patients).

Patients were divided into two groups: one under 65, and the other 65 or above.

The results obtained when comparing these two groups backed up the researchers’ doubts—older adults responded just as well to rTMS, but the effects took a little longer to be felt.

The findings support that rTMS was an effective and safe antidepressant strategy for older adults, and also that better response were observed with longer courses of treatment

The paper suggests a full review of policies and protocols around the use of rTMS to treat older patients with treatment-resistant depression, hypothesizing that further studies are needed to examine if the current treatment plan (typically 4-6 weeks) should be increased for the over-65s.

Currently, it is felt that there are many older people who are not being given access to this viable, and effective treatment.

The research was published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

If you care about mental health, please read studies that ultra-processed foods may make you feel depressed, and Vitamin D could help reduce depression symptoms.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce the risk of dementia, and Omega-3 supplements could improve memory functions in older people.

The study was conducted by Gonçalo Cotovio et al and published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

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