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A New Approach for Severe Depression

May 4, 2020 by Ameer Helles

A new class of magnetic brain stimulation rapidly relieved symptoms of extreme depression in 90 % of the participants in a clinical study conducted by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Depression is a treatable disorder, but traditional therapies are not beneficial for certain people. Repetitive TMS is usually used when traditional treatments such as medications and talk therapy (psychotherapy) do not work.


The treatment is labeled Stanford Accelerated Intelligent Neuromodulation Treatment or SAINT. It is a type of transcranial magnetic stimulation approved by the FDA for the treatment of depression. Researchers reported that therapy improves the current FDA-approved protocols by increasing the number of magnetic pulses, accelerating the pace of treatment, and targeting the pulse according to each individual's neurocircuit.

RTMS (repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation) has been proved to induce changes in neuronal activity in regions of the brain involved in mood control, such as the prefrontal cortex. When each magnetic pulse flows through the skull and the brain, this causes a brief activation of the brain cells beneath the treatment coil.

The frequency of pulse production also influences whether brain activity is increased or decreased by the rTMS session. Recent findings also show that stimulation on the left and right sides of the brain can have opposite effects on mood control.

"Rather than identify biotypes and then searching for ways to treat them, we started with therapeutic response to an anatomically targeted treatment," said Shan H. Siddiqi, MD, a neuropsychiatrist at the Cognitive Neurology Division at BIDMC and an Instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Siddiqi continued, "Our novel approach harnesses TMS to causally link neuro-anatomy and behavior. We started with depression and anxiety, but this approach could also be used to find a treatment target for any cluster of psychiatric symptoms."


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