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Brainwave Measurements May Guide Treatments for Faster Depression Relief

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For someone who's depressed, the wait for relief can seem endless.

In more than half of all patients, the first antidepressant drug that's prescribed simply doesn't work. And it can take months to figure out what does. Aside from trial and error, there's never been a straightforward test for figuring out which medication will be the most effective for a particular individual.

However, it looks as if that may change.

Thanks to a new test, patients may no longer have to wait to find the most effective treatment. A nationwide study led by UCLA, with funding from NARSAD, has resulted in a test that may enable clinicians to accurately predict within a week whether a particular drug will be effective in an individual who suffers from depression, allowing physicians to quickly identify patients who should switch to an alternative treatment to increase the likelihood of feeling better.

Non-Invasive Brain Wave Measurement

At the core is a non-invasive computerized measurement known as quantitative electroencephalography, which measures changes in brain-wave patterns and has the ability to recognize specific changes over time. These changes precede improvement in mood by many weeks, helping to predict how effective a particular medication will be.

The process is simple: A patient is interviewed, then relaxes in a comfortable recliner while five electrodes are applied, three to the forehead and two to the ears. The electrodes are hooked up to a computer that takes the required measurements. The entire procedure is completely painless and lasts about ten minutes.

After this procedure is completed, each individual starts antidepressant treatment. In this study, the medication was escitalopram, commonly known as Lexapro. This antidepressant is a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor, or SSRI, a class of drugs commonly prescribed for depression.

One week later, the patient is given a second electroencephalography, which enables doctors to see the way in which the individual's brainwave patterns changed. The key is that when people are treated and likely to get well, the prefrontal area exhibits specific changes in activity.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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