The next time you visit a psychiatrist, don't be put off by the helmet-shaped device crawling with electrodes in the corner of the office. It's there to help.via Wired
Transcranial magnetic stimulation, a technique for treating clinical depression, uses a device placed on a patient's head that delivers a pulse to the gray matter. Psychiatrists at the American Psychiatric Association meeting here are unabashedly optimistic about its potential for treating tough cases. It's in the final stages of FDA review, and could come to market as soon as the end of the year.
"It's much less invasive -- patients can go home or go back to work afterwards," says Shirlene Sampson, an assistant professor at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. "And patients aren't exposed to social risk with their insurance companies and employers."
TMS works by creating an electromagnetic pulse that doesn't disturb the skull or scalp, but can reach two to three centimeters into the brain to stimulate the prefrontal cortex and paralimbic blood flow, increasing the serotonin output and the dopamine and norepinephrine functions.
The downside is that it takes 20 to 30 sessions of 40 minutes each for at least six weeks to get a good result. But patients stick with TMS treatment better than with medication or electroshock, researchers say.