Can Brain Stimulation Improve Depression Symptoms

William Kellogg
April 9, 2019
depression brain stimulation

Depression and depressive disorders consistently proves to be a compelling topic worthy of discussion and extensive research. There are many treatment modalities and available pharmaceutical interventions for the management of depressive disorders. Despite these many interests in the search for effective therapies for the management of depressive symptoms yet little attention has been given to interventions that would stimulate brain activity through the use of weak alternating current for the management of depression. In other word, it is possible to direct a weak alternating electrical current with the aid of electrodes attached to the scalp to target a naturally occurring electrical pattern in a specific part of the brain to help reduce depression through the stimulation of these regions in the brain. This process started from the discovery that different types of brain rhythms indicate that simultaneous activity of the brain cortex neurons are dependent on a person’s mental state. And hence emotional state.

Furthermore, it has earlier been discovered that the frequency and the nature of the EEG rhythms provides useful information that can be used to detect the levels of consciousness and some mental disorders such as depression, anxiety through the use of different levels of awareness (consciousness) such as wakefulness, sleep, dream, hypnosis, over-arousal as variables.

All the above-mentioned are related to specific neural networks in cortical areas. The interaction of the person with the surrounding environment leads to mental arousal known as “general activation of mind”. Therefore, it could be stated that mental arousal is a routine, comprehensive, and basic characteristic of the mental status.

Recently, researchers successfully targeted Brain stimulation improves depression symptoms, restores brain waves in clinical study. The research is reported to lay the ground work for larger research studies to use a specific kind of electrical brain stimulation called transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) to treat people diagnosed with major depression. The process involves directing a steady stream of weak electricity through electrodes attached to various parts of the brain of 32 different participants who had been previously diagnosed with depression. Each of the participants were also screened before the study by employing a standard measure of depression known as the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS). The participants were then separated into three different groups. One group received the sham placebo stimulation — a brief electrical stimulus to mimic the sensation at the beginning of a tACS session. A control group received a 40-Hertz tACS intervention, well outside the range that the researchers thought would affect alpha oscillations. A third group received the treatment intervention — a 10-Hertz tACS electrical current that targeted each individual’s naturally occurring alpha waves. Each person underwent their invention for 40 minutes on five consecutive days. None of the participants knew which group they were in, and neither did the researchers, making this a randomized double-blinded clinical study — the gold standard in biomedical research. Each participant took the MADRS immediately following the five-day regimen, at two weeks, and again at four weeks. The results of the study showed that 70 percent of people in the treatment group reported at least a 50 percent reduction of depression symptoms, according to their MADRS scores which was significantly higher than the one for the two other control groups.

This is a significant breakthrough in the field of mental health. It is hoped that this research will be expanded to improve the outcome of individuals undergoing treatment for depression considering the serious side effects of antidepressant drugs.

William Kellogg

William Kellogg is a veteran writer who's covered the subject of the intersection of technology, health and mental wellness for nearly two decades.

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