Low-Strength Brain Stimulation Could Offer Immediate Depression Relief

An unhappy elderly man visits a medical facilityBrain stimulation such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) can be highly effective at treating depression, with ECT boasting an improvement rate as high as 90%. But these treatments can be expensive, typically take several weeks to work, and ECT, in particular, has been associated with significant potential side effects—rendering these treatments a last resort for people with depression who have tried everything else. New research points toward an alternative. Low field magnetic stimulation (LFMS) may offer more rapid results.

What Is Low Field Magnetic Stimulation?

Mental health professionals still don’t fully understand why brain stimulation treatments work, but research overwhelmingly points to their effectiveness. It may be that brain stimulation somehow “resets” the brain, changing the number of neurotransmitters and their effectiveness at undoing brain problems that lead to depression.

Low field magnetic stimulation works on the same basic principle as ECT and TMS. LFMS relies on magnetic fields instead of electricity. Even though the magnetic fields are much weaker than the electrical currents of ECT, they’re delivered at a higher frequency. This higher frequency could cause LFMS to work more quickly than other treatments.

Research on Low Field Magnetic Stimulation

A new study evaluated the effectiveness of LFMS by administering LFMS or a fake LFMS treatment to 63 people with depression. Both treatments lasted 20 minutes, and neither study participants nor researchers knew whether they received the real treatment or the placebo. People who underwent real LFMS treatments saw an immediate and significant improvement in their moods.

The study’s authors emphasize that LFMS could be a good tool for treating “emergency” cases, such as those where a person has threatened suicide or needs immediate psychiatric hospitalization. They also point to the need for further research, particularly surrounding the effects of multiple LFMS treatments.

References:

  1. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). (n.d.). National Alliance on Mental Illness. Retrieved from http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=About_Treatments_and_Supports&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=142939
  2. Michael L. Rohan, Rinah T. Yamamoto, Caitlin T. Ravichandran, Kenroy R. Cayetano, Oscar G. Morales, David P. Olson, Gordana Vitaliano, Steven M. Paul, Bruce M. Cohen. Rapid Mood-Elevating Effects of Low Field Magnetic Stimulation in Depression. Biological Psychiatry, 2014; 76 (3): 186 DOI:10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.10.024
  3. Shah, T. (2014, July 23). Low field magnetic stimulation may offer immediate relief for patients with depression. Tech Times. Retrieved from http://www.techtimes.com/articles/11002/20140723/low-field-magnetic-stimulation-may-offer-immediate-relief-for-patients-with-depression.htm

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  • Leesa

    Leesa

    July 26th, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    This is great! I know that a huge complaint can be that we always want everything to happen immediately and when it doesn’r then we feel like giving up and that nothing is going to help. This could be the answer for that. It is hard to wait when you want something so badly and this kind of immediate gratification for lack of a better word could certainly be a tept in the right direction for so many people who are ready for that depression to left and to be themselves again.

  • Phyllis

    Phyllis

    July 26th, 2014 at 3:14 PM

    What makes me feel pretty good about this is that if I am not mistaken this has been a treatment for various things that has been around a long time with obviously pretty good results or it wouldn’t continue to grow in favor among the professional community.

    There are so many people today who are afflicted with the pain of depression and don’t like the way that mediucations make them feel so this could be a wonderful choice for thos who are willing to try something a little different but not necessarily new.

  • beth d

    beth d

    July 27th, 2014 at 5:20 AM

    Yes I would definitely be interested in long term effects and how long the benefits of this last in a patient. Is it a quick fix for the time being or something that is long term and sustainable?

  • Peter

    Peter

    July 30th, 2014 at 4:22 AM

    Sounds quite promising if done the right way and with the right administrator who knows what they are doing!

  • Natalie

    Natalie

    July 31st, 2014 at 12:53 PM

    Reading this post gives me hope that Magnetic Stimulation is becoming more visible in the medical community as an effective way to treat depression! Currently, at the clinic I work for, we offer TMS Therapy for treatment-resistance depression, and it makes me very happy to see that a low field magnetic treatment is being branched out as a potential treatment for depression aside from medicine! Great post Zawn, thanks for sharing :)

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