Depression affects millions of people. While there are several drugs to treat this chronic disorder, many patients complain of undesirable side effects. Moreover, the benefits of antidepressant drugs are not sustained.
Over the years, several non-drug therapies have been developed including deep brain stimulation. Now another non-drug treatment, which is being promoted for depression, is transcranial direct current stimulation.
Transcranial direct stimulation is a noninvasive method of stimulating the brain. It involves passing a weak depolarizing current from the front of the brain via electrodes placed on the scalp. Patients are awake and alert during the procedure.
The latest research study from Australia claims that transcranial direct stimulation may be a safer, more effective treatment for depression and may have an overall positive effect on the mind and body.
Researchers at the University of New South Wales and the Black Dog Institute have just published their work on the largest study on transcranial direct stimulation. The trial involved 64 depressed individuals who had failed to benefit from other depression treatment. Transcranial direct nerve stimulation was carried out for 20 minutes every day for up to six weeks. (1)
After six weeks patients started to indicate that their mood was much better than at three weeks after treatment. Individuals who improved were then offered weekly booster treatments and over 85 percent showed marked improvements in mood with no relapse after three months.
The study revealed that more than 50 percent of depressed patients experienced significant improvement in their mood after receiving this treatment.
The other aspect of the treatment was that the technique was safe and not associated with any adverse outcomes. Moreover, transcranial stimulation was cost-effective to deliver and only required a short visit to the clinic.
The study also has unexpected mental and physical benefits. In addition, it improved cognitive function and information processing. Several patients in the study indicated that they had improvements in their neck, joint pain and concentration.
These are astonishing results for patients with depression. The currently available antidepressant drugs are expensive, have a number of side effects and often do not offer a sustained benefit.
At the moment, it is not known if transcranial nerve stimulation will work in everyone with depression and more clinical trials are required. (2) If this technique really works, it is the first ray of hope for the millions of patients with depression who would like a non-drug alternative for their illness.
1. Colleen K. Loo, Transcranial direct current stimulation for depression: 3-week, randomized, sham-controlled trial. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22215866
2.Schilller PU. Transcranial direct current stimulation in treatment resistant depression: a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study.
Reviewed March 12, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jessica Obert