Electrical currents successfully used to treat depression


A weak electrical current can be used to stimulate the brain and treat depression in a safe and effective way. It may have other health benefits as well according to a major Australian study of transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS).

During the largest and most definitive study of tDCS, researchers from the University of New South Wales and the Black Dog Institute found that up to half of depressed participants experienced substantial improvements following treatment. tDCS is a non-invasive form of brain stimulation. It passes a weak depolarizing electrical current into the front of the brain through electrodes. People being treated remain awake during the procedure.

“We are excited about these results. This is the largest randomized controlled trial of transcranial direct current stimulation ever undertaken and, while the results need to be replicated, they confirm previous reports of significant antidepressant effects,” said Professor Colleen Loo, trial leader and UNSW’s School of Psychiatry.

The trial had 64 people who were unsuccessful with two other types of depression treatment receive the tDCS for 20 minutes a day up to six weeks. There was also a control group.

“Most of the people who went into this trial had tried at least two other antidepressant treatments and got nowhere. So the results are far more significant than they might initially appear – we weren’t dealing with people who were easy to treat,” Loo explained.

Positive results at six weeks exceeded positive results at three weeks. About 85% of participants showed no relapse after three months.

“These results demonstrate that multiple tDCS sessions are safe and not associated with any adverse cognitive outcomes over time,” said Loo. It is a simple and cost effective treatment.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, UNSW


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