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If you regularly read material on depression and bipolar disorder, you may have seen the acronym LFMS. It stands for low-field magnetic stimulation.
LFMS is a treatment modality that, in studies, is providing significant and immediate improvements in people’s mood. Since quick relief from depression is hard to come by, LFMS may prove to be invaluable.
As with TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation), LFMS uses magnetic fields to stimulate the brain. What differentiates LFMS is using magnetic fields at a higher frequency than TMS, and at a fraction of the strength. Both treatments are effective at relieving depression although the effect of TMS is not immediate.
“Importantly, LFMS appears to have an immediate effect on mood and thus has the potential to provide relief in emergency situations,” said researcher and physicist Michael Rohan.
Another plus for LFMS is that, so far, research participants have experienced no side effects. Other current depression treatments, antidepressant medications and ECT (electro-convulsive therapy), may produce side effects—and medications can take weeks to begin working.
The LFMS trials involved 63 volunteers, ages 18 to 65, diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder. Each had been using a mood medication for a minimum of six weeks. All underwent a 20 minute treatment session using a portable LFMS device, but only half of the participants actually received the magnetic brain stimulation.
The individuals who received the LFMS reported a significant lift in their mood. Those who did not have their brains stimulated indicated their mood was unchanged.
“Although larger research studies are needed, we think LFMS could be a powerful tool as a rapidly acting treatment for depression, either alone or in combination with medication,” said Rohan.
The researchers are already exploring the ideal parameters for using LFMS in clinical settings, and shall study the effect that multiple treatment sessions have on depression symptoms. They, and other brain stimulation experts, are extremely interested in finding out how long the LFMS antidepressant effect continues after treatment.
If the initial research results can be replicated in bigger studies, and the effects are durable, LFMS might be applicable to other psychiatric illnesses, and guide the direction of future studies in neuro-modulation.
Source: Harvard Gazette
Photo credit: dierk schaefer / flickr
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