Study: Direct brain stimulation can treat depression

While devicemakers like Israel's Brainsway are commercializing magnetic brain stimulation therapies for depression, a new study found that direct currents applied to the cranium can boost the effectiveness of antidepressants.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, took a look at 120 patients with moderate to severe depression, finding that participants who received transcranial direct current stimulation paired with generic Zoloft fared better than those taking drugs alone, Reuters reports. Patients self-reported their initial depression on a 0-60 scale, averaging about 31, and those who received the combo therapy reduced that average to 13 after 6 weeks, according to the news service.

None of the direct-current devices are approved for use in the U.S., but these early results show promise in treating a fickle disorder, Duke psychiatrist Sarah Lisanby told Reuters.

"In the field of depression, it's important to know about treatment options, and medications alone don't work for everyone," she said. "Now there's a broadened array of new, device-based therapies that allow us to affect brain function in less invasive ways."

Devicemakers are attacking depression from every angle, developing noninvasive stimulators and surgically implanted cranial pacemakers. In January, Brainsway picked up FDA approval for its Deep TMS System, a transcranial magnetic stimulation device, and Neuronetics markets a similar device also designed to treat depression.

Switzerland's Aleva has been raising money to get its implanted deep-brain stimulation tech through the CE mark process, promising to treat Parkinson's and depression, and big-time manufacturers like Medtronic ($MDT) and St. Jude Medical ($STJ) have DBS devices on the market already.

- read the Reuters report

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