Magnetic treatment studied for depression

Depressed patients who have not been helped by antidepressant medications may be interested in a research study of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), an investigational treatment for depression.

School of Medicine investigators are seeking volunteers with clinical depression to learn whether rTMS might help alleviate symptoms.

The investigational treatment involves placing a magnet on the head and stimulating key regions of the brain with electromagnetic fields. Unlike another depression treatment, electroconvulsive therapy, rTMS does not require anesthesia, so patients can eat and drink what they want before treatments and often can drive themselves to and from their appointments.

The University is one of 16 sites around the United States testing rTMS as a depression treatment.

Major depression is one of the most prevalent and debilitating diseases worldwide.

Currently, only about one-third of patients treated with antidepressant drugs relieve their clinical symptoms with a single course of treatment. Even after several rounds of treatment with antidepressant drugs, between 10 percent and 15 percent of patients remain depressed.

For those patients, complex treatments involving multiple drugs or electroconvulsive therapy are the only medical options.

“Preliminary studies of rTMS have reported changes in mood in non-depressed volunteers, and anecdotal reports have suggested that the treatment might improve symptoms in patients with clinical depression,” said Eileen M. Nickisch, Ph.D., study coordinator at the University site.

To be eligible for the study, participants must be between 18-70 years old and must have been diagnosed with depression within the past two years. The investigators are seeking people who have not been helped by antidepressant medications. If patients are on medication for depression, they must be willing to stop taking it during the course of the study.

Half of those who volunteer will receive rTMS therapy. The rest will receive an inactive placebo version of the treatment.

Neither the investigators nor the study volunteers will know which participants are receiving rTMS during the first four weeks of the study. After that all participants will be given the option to receive rTMS therapy for the remainder of the study.

After the initial evaluation, participants will be required to come in to receive treatment every day (Monday through Friday) for six weeks, followed by three weeks of tapering off the treatment. Volunteers will receive the treatments as outpatients.

The initial evaluation takes an hour or longer. Each subsequent visit lasts approximately 45 minutes. Participants receive free screenings, a physical exam, EKG, laboratory testing and rTMS treatment.

For more information or to volunteer for the study, call Nickisch at 362-1839.

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