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New Treatments for Depression


A new, slightly radical treatment option may now be available for depression sufferers who have not been responding to more traditional treatments. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a therapy which utilizes power magnets to induce brain activity, hopes to be the newest effective way to battle the potentially debilitating mental disorder.

“The ideal candidate is someone who has tried an antidepressant and either they couldn’t stand the side effects or they didn’t get better from one or two (drugs),” said Dr. Scott Babe, a psychiatrist who is pioneering the treatment at Samaritan Regional Mental Health Center in Corvallis in an interview with the Gazette Times.

“I will talk to my patients about it because a lot of medications people take for depression have some pretty significant side effects.”

Back in 2008, the first commercial device for this type of treatment (the NeuroStar) was cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Since then, over 300 such systems have been placed in various hospitals and clinics around the country.

The NeuroStar machinery features a reclining chair for the patient and a swing arm that holds the business end of the device, a magnetic coil. During treatment (a process which lasts anywhere from four to six weeks) a coil and minimum effective magnetic level are tailored to the specific needs of the sufferer. The first session lasts approximately 90 minutes while the others last about an hour. The coil gets positioned against the patient’s head and then adjusted to deliver a measured level of magnetic stimulation to the cerebral cortex.

Still, experts are quick to point out that TMS is not as effective an option at treating depression as electroconvulsive therapy which utilizes electricity to induce seizures that can adjust brain function.

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