Individuals with depression who cannot tolerate or did not respond to antidepressant medications may find relief with the help of a non-invasive treatment called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). The brains of study participants were stimulated with a pulsing electromagnet in order to “jump-start underactive mood-regulating circuitry.”
This National Institutes of Health funded study subjected treatment-resistant depression patients to either active or simulated brain stimulation. Fourteen percent of those receiving the actual therapy achieved a remission of symptoms compared to only 5% who received a sham treatment.
“For treatment resistant-patients, we found that rTMS is at least as good as current medications or anything else we have available, except ECT [electroconvulsive therapy, an invasive procedure with considerable side effects],” said researcher Mark George, PhD. “Our current antidepressants do not work for many people.” According to study authors, rTMS treatment does not trigger any seizures or notable side effects.