Do Brain Magnets for Depression Work?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation may help with major depressive disorder

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) What if magnetic currents could help with depression when antidepressants fail? Certain insurance companies are starting to cover this new non-invasive therapy.

A recent study confirmed the findings of multiple studies that transcranial magnetic stimulation could help with depression.

As much as a 37 percent remission rate for depressive symptoms was found after 6 weeks of therapy.

"Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing depressive symptoms."

Linda Carpenter, MD, chief of Mood Disorders Program and the Neuromodulation Clinic at Butler Hospital, led an investigation into an alternative treatment for depression.

For the study, 42 clinics in the US that practice transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) treated 307 patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) who were non-responsive to antidepressants.

Depression was assessed at baseline, after 2 weeks of TMS and after 6 weeks of TMS.

Study results showed that 58 percent of patients responded positively to the TMS and 37 percent had their depressive symptoms go into remission.

For TMS, a large electromagnetic coil is placed on the head and magnetic fields are used to stimulate nerve cells in the parts of the brain involved with mood and depression.

Dr. Carpenter said, “Continued research and confirmation of the effectiveness of TMS is important for understanding its place in everyday psychiatric care and to support advocacy for insurance coverage of the treatment.”

“Next steps for TMS research involve enhancing our understanding of how to maintain positive response to TMS over time after the course of therapy ends and learning how to customize the treatment for patients using newer technologies, so TMS can help even more patients.”

Dr. Carpenter’s research is the continuation of over 30 published TMS studies. Medicare in New England and Blue Cross/ Blue Shield Rhode Island now cover TMS therapy for depression. 

This study was published in June in Depression and Anxiety. No financial information was given and no conflicts of interest were found.

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Review Date: 
August 6, 2012
Last Updated:
April 25, 2013