Magnets could be new drug-free treatment for depression:

Magnets could hold the key to a treatment for depression in people who have not responded to drugs, research has suggested.

A study has found that people who had magnets applied to their head to activate certain parts of the brain were more likely to report their depression lifting than those treated with a similar device without a magnet.

The research conducted by a team at the Medical University of South Carolina, in America, involved 190 people who were depressed and who had not responded to medication.

Just under half were randomly assigned to receive the transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy which involved wearing a helmet like device that applied a magnetic current to the front section of brain for around 37 minutes a day for three weeks.

The others wore the same helmet for the same duration but the magnetic field was blocked.

The study was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Afterwards depression lifted in 14 per cent of those who received the real magnetic treatment compared with five per cent who received the sham treatment.

It mean the transcranial magnetic stimulation was four times more likely to successfully treat depression.

It was calculated that 12 people needed to be treated with the device for one to be cured of their depression.

Lead author Dr Mark George, said: “The results of this study suggest that prefrontal repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation is a monotherapy with few adverse effects and significant antidepressant effects for unipolar depressed patients who do not respond to medications or who cannot tolerate them.”

By Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor
Published: 7:25AM BST 04 May 2010

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Helen Low

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