UC Berkeley Press Release

Patient: Depression Gone After Magnetic Treatment

Treatment Not Yet FDA Approved

POSTED: 7:31 pm EST December 10, 2007

UPDATED: 11:00 am EST December 11, 2007

There are no pills, no invasive procedures, yet doctors say it works.

Doctors said magnets might be the key to successful treatment for those with major depression.

Doctors said that 10 to 15 percent of Americans suffer an episode of major depression at some time in their lives.

Standard treatment doesn't always work and medication can have difficult side effects. But there may be another option with minor side effects and major results.

It sounds like a Tommy gun with a rapid-fire tap, tap, tap but it doesn't bother Stephen Zatuchni one bit.

"If you weren't here, I'd be asleep by now," Zatuchni said.

Zatuchni said he used to suffer from major depression.

He said it started 20 years ago and it was so bad he couldn't work and couldn't even get out of bed.

"I think that depression is a response to pain and you ignore the pain and in the process of ignoring the pain you ignore everything. There was no feeling that could penetrate to my heart," Zatuchni said.

He said he tried almost everything without success.

But then he learned about Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS, a non-invasive treatment that excites the brain through magnetic pulses.

"It activates neurons here that were off line and it tells them 'you guys need to get back to work.' They go online and they participate and do their normal activity," Dr. John O'Reardon said. "It looks like it's effective for patients who don't benefit from standard treatments, be it talk therapy or medications."

O'Reardon said medications for depression can cause weight gain, sluggishness and cloudy thinking.

"And a very common one is to have sexual dysfunction," he said.

Far fewer side effects are reported with TMS, nothing more serious than headache and scalp discomfort.

Zatuchni said he had no side effects but did notice a big change in the way he feels.

"Within a week there was some life being let into my life, within a month or two my depression was gone," he said.

The treatment is not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

O'Reardon said he hopes it will happen by the spring and will open the door to insurance reimbursement.

Patients need anywhere from 10 to 30 sessions to start and about two every month to maintain the effect.

Zatuchni claims there's an added benefit.

"I feel smarter as a result of the treatment," he said.

Doctors said they believe TMS could work for other disorders like mild depression, post traumatic stress and tourettes syndrome.

The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine is looking for people ages 14 to 21 with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who are looking for a non-medication approach to treating their symptoms.

For information on a study involving Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation call 215-573-8582.