Study Investigates Novel Treatments for Depression

Antidepressant medications and cognitive behavioral therapy have long been considered the “one-two” punch of depression treatment regimens. However, some individuals respond poorly to medications, even lengthy trial and error processes. Relapse and poor response to treatment remain the greatest hurdles in the treatment of depression.

Research into novel approaches for dealing with this mental health issue has expanded into the non-pharmaceutical realms. There is a wealth of clinical evidence, for example, that bright light therapy is a beneficial and side-effect free remedy for seasonal affective disorder, a common subtype of depression. Similarly, the use of negative ion generators in depression treatment has also received the attention of the medical establishment. These non-medical approaches offer the potential benefit of fewer medications and therefore fewer adverse effects.

A study underway at British Columbia University will determine whether bright light or negative ion therapy might enhance the effectiveness of Prozac (fluoxetine). Researchers are recruiting people with a diagnosis of major depression, but without psychotic symptoms or obvious risk of suicide. They hope to enroll 216 participants in the study, with completion tentatively set for May 2014. There will be four experimental conditions: placebo plus light therapy, Prozac plus light therapy, placebo plus negative ion therapy, and Prozac plus negative ion therapy. Scores on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale will be the primary measuring tool. Researchers will take a baseline reading at the start of the trial and then again during a two-month follow-up interview. Positive results for either form of novel therapy represent a chance to reduce the burden of medications and side effects on depressed individuals.


Clinical evidence for bright light therapy in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder is compelling. It’s well understood that “winter blues” are at least partly related to the reduced amounts of daylight and sunshine experienced during the colder months. On the other hand, there is still some debate as to whether negative ion therapy is based on scientific evidence. The study referenced in Psychiatry Research, conducted by Dauphinais et. al. in 2012, produced inconclusive results when comparing negative ion therapy with bright light therapy for treating bipolar disorder. Both therapies were slightly better than placebo and showed low risk of side effects. The British Columbia University study may be the first of its kind. The results, when they are calculated, will answer many questions, but they are likely to generate many more. Ultimately, the goal of all clinical trials is to lessen the burden on and improve the outcomes of people diagnosed with a mental health issue.

References

  1. Dauphinais, D., Rosenthal, J., Terman, M., DiFebo, H., Tuggle, C., & Rosenthal, N. (2012). Controlled trial of safety and efficacy of bright light therapy vs. negative air ions in patients with bipolar depression. Psychiatry Research, 196(1), 57-61. Retrieved June 8, 2012, from the Science Direct database.
  2. Light, Ion, and Fluoxetine Efficacy (LIFE) in Depression. (n.d.). ClinicalTrials.gov. Retrieved June 9, 2012, from http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00958204?cond=%22Depressive+Disorder%22&intr=%22Fluoxetine%22&rank=8
  3. Negative Ion Therapy for Depression. (n.d.). Technology Ventures. Retrieved June 8, 2012, from techventures.columbia.edu/technologies/search.php?req=caseSearch&caseNumber=382

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