UC Berkeley Press Release

Treating Depression Magnetically

Posted on November 19, 2007

The neuroscientists at University of California-Berkeley are considering magnetic pulses as the potential alternative treatment for depression. Magnetic pulses involved in treating depression are known as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS. The clinical trials have shown positive results in treating depression with the help of TMS.

Scientists are now looking forward to understand the mechanism of how TMS alters the brain functioning. To solve this mystery the team at Berkeley has already taken a big step. They found that the effect of brain stimulation on the neurons depends on the activity of the brain at that time.

With the help of these findings psychiatrists would be able to understand better how to apply TMS. Psychiatrist Sarah Lisanby director of Brain Stimulation Division at Columbia University , New York said that: “We have to know how it works before we can know how to use it.”

A paddle is placed on the patient's scalp which contains a coil with electric current pulsing through it. The electrical signals of the neurons are changed by the magnetic field generated in the underlying region of the brain by the electrical current.

To know exactly how TMS affects the neurons, the research team tested TMS on anesthetized cat's brain. The use of TMS on the people has still not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as it is reviewing the TMS treatment device. The use of TMS treatment for depression has been approved in Canada and is successfully being used in Europe, South America and Australia .

According to the Psychiatrist Bret Schneider, a Consulting Assistant Professor at Stanford University , TMS treatment is effective in treating depression. He used TMS treatment in his private practice on patients which weren't relieved with drugs. He gave TMS treatment for 45 minutes in a day, 5 days a week and it continued for 2-6 weeks.