A promising solution for major depression
What is transcranial magnetic stimulation?
Have you ever heard of transcranial magnetic stimulation, also known as TMS? It is a therapy where doctors apply powerful magnetic pulses to your scalp.
These impulses stimulate your brain and could help people with major depression who are not finding relief with standard treatments.
But until recently, exactly how TMS alters our brains to lift the veil of depression has been a mystery.
New study on TMS and depression
A recent study led by researchers at Stanford Medicine has given us a new clue. They found that TMS works by reversing the flow of abnormal brain signals in our minds.
This groundbreaking discovery could also help doctors diagnose depression more effectively.
The scientists believe these reverse currents of neural activity could serve as a biomarker that is a physical sign of disease.
The researchers and the tools
The lead researcher for this study was Dr. Anish Mitra, a postdoctoral researcher in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.
He was initially skeptical about TMS and wanted to investigate it further. Luckily he had a special tool for the job.
dr Mitra had developed a mathematical tool for analyzing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). This is a common technique for mapping active areas in our brain.
His tool used the minute differences in timing between the activation of different brain areas to also uncover the direction of that activity.
What have you done?
dr Mitra and his colleagues worked with 33 patients diagnosed with treatment-resistant major depressive disorder. Treatment-resistant means that other treatments have failed in these patients.
Of the 33 patients, 23 received a specific form of TMS treatment known as Stanford neuromodulation therapy (SNT), while 10 received a sham treatment similar to a placebo.
SNT treatment involves high-dose patterns of magnetic impulses that can alter brain activity associated with major depression.
Unlike traditional TMS, which requires daily sessions for weeks or months, SNT is much faster, lasting more than ten sessions a day for only five days.
Their findings: A change in brain signals
When they examined the fMRI data from all of these patients, the researchers found a unique association in the normal brain.
There, a region called the anterior insula, which helps us understand bodily sensations, sends signals to another region that manages emotions, the anterior cingulate cortex.
In 75% of the depressed participants, this usual flow of activity was reversed. The stronger the depression, the higher the proportion of signals that went in the wrong direction.
However, after the depressed patients were treated with SNT, the flow of neuronal activity shifted in the normal direction within a week. This change coincided with relief from her depression.
What does this mean for the treatment of depression?
A major challenge in treating depression is that we do not fully understand its biological mechanisms.
When someone has a fever, there are many tests that can determine the cause and treatment. But there are no similar tests for someone with depression.
The results of this study suggest that this abnormal flow of neuronal activity could serve as a biomarker for depression.
This could allow physicians to more effectively tailor treatment to individual patients and predict how likely they are to respond well to SNT treatment.
These results are promising, but the researchers want to verify them in more patients.
They also hope that other scientists will adopt their analysis technique to gain further insights into the direction of brain activity hidden in fMRI data.
Because the more we know about the brain, the better we can understand and treat diseases like depression.
If you are interested in depression, please read studies on the key to recovery from depression and this substance in your diet can cause depression.
For more information on mental health, see studies on it Highly processed foods can lead to depressionAnd Vitamin D could help relieve symptoms of depression.
The study was published in the PNAS.
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