Lifestyle Health

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Magnetic pulses may help treat depression

The human brain.
The human brain.

Richard Gray

A treatment for depression that uses magnetic pulses to activate key areas of the brain is being offered for the first time.

The London Psychiatry Centre has adapted a technology known as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, which focuses magnetic beams into the brain, to treat depression.


These pulses increase the activity of neurons in the brain and change a patient's mood.


Around one in ten people suffer from depression. About ten per cent of those people fail to respond to treatments such as anti-depressants.


But doctors believe that TMS may provide a new kind of treatment for them that appears to carry few side effects.


Panels containing an electrical coil that produces magnetic pulses are positioned over a key area of the brani known as the prefrontal cortex.

This area of the brain is known to be responsible for controlling our personality and helps us perform what are known as executive functions - the ability to sort out conflicting thoughts oif what is good and bad.


In people suffering from depression, this area of the brain often has lower than normal levels of activity.


By using daily half hour sessions of stimulation from the magnets in this machine, psychiatrists can increase the activity and help get people out of the destructive cycle of depression.


Previously TMS has been used by scientists as a way of understanding how our brain is wired, but now they are also now starting to explore how to use it to treat other conditions including Alzheimer's Disease, schizophrenia and to overcome tinnitus.

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