“Women tend to be open to therapies like this a little bit more,” he said.
Fisher has a personal interest in this technology. He suffered from seasonal affective disorder and medications weren’t successful for him and others he knew. He looked into the technology and found how useful it was.
However, Holtzheimer has more confidence in the effectiveness of other devices, at least for treatment of depression.
“The one I have the most direct experience with and the one that has probably the most published literature on is transcranial magnetic stimulation,” he said.
He added that one company that produces the technology is Neuronetics, with the Neurostar device. The company was incorporated in 2003 and “began by licensing a revolutionary patented coil design from Emory University,” according to the company’s website.
“TMS uses an electromagnetic field to generate electric current in the cortex. It’s non-invasive but it actually activates cortical neurons,” Holtzheimer said.
Research backs up the effectiveness of TMS, he said.
“Over nearly almost 20 years of research, TMS has consistently shown that it has antidepressant effects, and that includes a number of placebo-controlled studies as well,” Holtzheimer said.
It does have some downfalls, including the possibility of “scalp pain and discomfort at the site of administration,” according to the Neuronetics website.
“The only potential downside of TMS is that inpatients that have failed more than one or two medications, it probably has a lower likelihood of success. But in patients who have only failed one or who just don’t tolerate medications, it’s probably more effective,” Holtzheimer said.
TMS is different from the cranial electrotherapy stimulation devices, like the Fisher Wallace Cranial Stimulator, he said.
“The Alpha-Stim and the Fisher Wallace system deliver a very low dose of electricity directly through the brain, but it is not strong enough to activate brain cells directly,” Holtzheimer said.