Major depression can be effectively treated in just three minutes at a time with brain stimulation, new research shows.
Treatment-resistant depression does not respond to antidepressants.
Up to around 40% of people may have this type of depression.
However, studies have shown a type of brain stimulation called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) can be helpful.
Previously, these sessions took 37.5 minutes each, but new research suggests just three minutes of a different type of brain stimulation can be just as effective.
Intermittent theta burst stimulation, or iTBS, mimics the natural electrical rhythms in the brain.
Dr Daniel Blumberger, the study’s lead author, said:
“The main impact of this study is that the number of people who are able to be treated using theta burst stimulation compared to the standard form of rTMS can be increased by three to four fold.”
For the study, people with treatment-resistant depression were either given the longer or the shorter treatment for five days a week over six weeks.
The results showed that almost half the people in the study found that iTBS reduced their symptoms and 32% had complete remission.
The figures for rTMS were similar, but the iTBS is quicker.
One of the patients, Shelley Hofer, 43, who has had treatment-resistant depression for most of her life, said:
“rTMS has changed my life in so many ways.
I really wish it had been around a long time ago because I believe it would have been my go-to treatment.
In my personal opinion, I feel rTMS could improve the lives of so many people who are still struggling to find the answers to their own mental illness.”
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The study was published in the journal The Lancet (Blumberger et al., 2018).