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Neuromodulation as Remedy For Depression

by learningdiscoveries on August 25, 2014

Depression is a silent hazard. It might seem to be just a usual down cycle of life but it could be much more severe than that. The recent death from an apparent suicide of Robin Williams, a major Hollywood star, was linked to the severe depression which he had fought publicly. This is yet again another tragic case of what depression can do to an individual.

Depression is a serious mental issue that needs to be detected fast and get treated.

The common remedies of depression are through antidepressants and psychotherapy. However, not all patients suffering from depression can experience positive results from taking psychiatric drugs and psychotherapy. In many cases, antidepressants do not work or create intolerable side effects to the patients.

UCLA Depression Research and Clinic Program UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) offers a new form of therapy for depression to fill this gap. Their work on a physiological process known as “neuromodulation” could become a hopeful solution for patients suffering from depression.

One of the alternative remedies is known as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) which is the use of electrical or magnetic impulses to stimulate brain cells to change their pattern of activity, resulting in a therapeutic benefit.

The TMS procedure involves positioning an electromagnetic coil over a specific location on a patient’s scalp. Once the magnet is activated, it delivers short electromagnetic pulses with the same strength as those used in MRI.

Dr. Alexander Bystritsky, director of UCLA’s Anxiety Disorders Program, explains that the procedure brings a magnet to the brain and affects the brain’s signal transmission process as the brain largely communicates by sending electrical signals.

Another neuromodulation approach similar to TMS is the trigeminal-nerve stimulation (TNS) which aims to change the electrical activity pattern of the brain. The difference is, in TNS, electrodes that deliver the pulses of energy are applied directly to the surface of the skin.

The patch used in TNS which is attached to the patient’s forehead during sleep delivers a low-energy current to stimulate branches of the trigeminal nerve which normally transmits sensations from the face, mouth, and the surface of the eyes into the brain. It works to send signals deep within the brain to a part of the frontal lobe called the anterior cingulate, which is involved in regulating mood and emotion.

Despite all the promising signs, more work is still on the way in the advancement of neuromodulation. The goal is that instead of saving neuromodulation as a last resource, it will be adopted and adapted as a part of the early stage of depression remedy along with therapy and medication and make a big difference in people’s lives.

Dr. Ian Cook, professor of psychiatry and bioengineering and director of the UCLA Depression Research and Clinic Program, states that although many lives are restored through medication and psychotherapy, there are still unmet needs. Neuromodulation techniques are clearly promising alternatives for patients with depression who do not respond well to the medications.

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Rosemary Boon

Registered Psychologist

M.A. (Psych),
Grad. Dip. Ed. Studies (Sch. Counsel),
Grad Dip. Ed. B Sc, Dip. Nut.

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