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Researchers Develop New Treatment for Depression

Magnetic seizure stimulation may prevent side effects of electroconvulsive therapy (Oct. 23)

Researchers at Monash University in Victoria, Australia, are studying magnetic seizure therapy (MST) as an alternative treatment for the 30% of patients with depression who don’t respond to traditional treatment.

The study has been published in two journals — Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging and Depression and Anxiety.

According to study leader Professor Paul Fitzgerald, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is an established intervention for treatment-resistant depression. The use of ECT is limited, however, by memory-related side effects and associated stigma. For this reason, the researchers began exploring new treatment options. MST is a brain-stimulation technique that may have clinical effects similar to those of ECT without the unwanted side effects.

In MST, a seizure is induced through the use of magnetic stimulation rather than through a direct electrical current, as in ECT. Magnetic fields pass freely into the brain, making it possible to more precisely focus stimulation, Fitzgerald said.

The new study found that MST resulted in an overall significant reduction in depression symptoms; 40% of patients showed overall improvement, and 30% showed some improvement. None of the trial participants complained of cognitive side effects.

The research is still at an early stage, and MST is available only in a few locations worldwide.

Source: Monash University, October 23, 2012.

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