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Calm depression symptoms with shallow current
A new medical device was recently presented that can massively reduce the symptoms in depressed people. In so-called transcranial AC brain stimulation, weak electrical impulses are conducted through electrodes attached to the scalp. In 70 percent of the subjects, this relieved the symptoms of depression enormously.
Researchers at the UNC School of Medicine in North Carolina recently developed a completely new therapy for depression. A shallow electrical stimulation of the brain normalizes the waves in an area of the brain that is overactive in people with depression. In 70 percent of the participants, the symptoms of depression were more than halved. The study results were recently published in the specialist journal "Translational Psychiatry".
Brain stimulation soothed overactive brain waves
In the first clinical study of this kind, the team led by Dr. Flavio Glad that depression can be significantly alleviated by electrical stimulation. A certain electrical pattern is targeted in an overactive part of the brain and normalized through the stimulation. In 70 percent of the participants, the symptoms of depression were at least halved. For some, the complaints almost completely disappeared.
Targeting the brain's alpha waves
Dr. Frohlich's transcranial AC brain stimulation takes a completely new approach: In contrast to other brain stimulations, the new method addresses the alpha waves of each individual individually. These waves are in the frequency range from eight to twelve Hertz. The alpha waves increase in dominance whenever we close our eyes, dream, think about something or have ideas. They are particularly strong when our brain largely excludes external stimuli such as seeing, feeling and hearing.
Why electricity can help with depression
Previous studies have already confirmed that people suffering from depression have unbalanced alpha waves. These waves are particularly overactive in the left frontal cortex of the brain. Using AC brain stimulation, the researchers attempted to bring the overactive left frontal cortex back into line with the right frontal cortex.
About the course of the study
The participants were divided into three groups during the study. Each group received 40 minutes of treatment daily for five days. One group received placebo treatment, one group was treated with the already known 40 Hertz brain stimulation and the third group received the new 10 Hertz AC brain stimulation, which is aimed specifically at the alpha waves. None of the participants knew which group they were in. Immediately before and after treatment and two and four weeks later, the severity of the depression was determined using the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale.
Two weeks after treatment
When the Frohlich team examined the data from two weeks after treatment, they found that 70 percent of participants in the 10-Hertz AC treatment group reported at least 50 percent fewer symptoms of depression. This rate was significantly higher than in the other two control groups. An even greater decline was observed for some participants. However, this effect leveled off four weeks after treatment.
Researchers see great potential
"It is important to note that this is the first study of this kind," emphasizes Dr. Happy in a press release on the study results. Before the investigation, it was unclear whether there would be any effect at all. The fact that the results have been so positive gives researchers confidence that this approach will help many people with depression. Two further follow-up studies are currently being planned for this new therapy. (vb)