HAIFA, Israel and NEW YORK, N.Y., (April 12, 1999) -- Magnets have recently been hailed as the answer to a wide variety of ailments, but rarely have these claims been backed up by scientific evidence. Now a double-blind study at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology shows magnetic stimulation of the brain eases severe depression, which affects some 10 million Americans.
The findings, which will appear in this month's Archives of General Psychiatry, provide convincing evidence that transcranial magnetic stimulation of the brain (TMS) is effective for treating severe depression and may become an alternative to electroconvulsive treatment (ECT), which causes painful convulsions and memory impairment.
The effectiveness of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), a refinement of TMS, was tested on 67 patients in a double-blind study -- in which neither the patients nor the researchers are told who is receiving the treatment and who is receiving the sham. At the end of two weeks, half the patients in the rTMS group showed a 50 percent improvement in their depression ratings. Only one-quarter of those in the sham-treated group showed the same improvement. Moreover, half the patients receiving the treatment had no need for further treatment with ECT, while all those receiving the sham treatment required it.
"Our findings are very exciting, since they provide clear evidence for the effectiveness of rTMS, at least over the short term," explained Dr. Ehud Klein of the Faculty of Medicine at the Technion and head of the Department of Psychiatry at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. "The treatment holds the promise of eliminating the need for ECT therapy in many cases."
"It's a landmark work," said Dr. Mark George, professor of psychiatry at
Medical University of South Carolina about the Technion research. His view was
seconded by Dr. Robert Berman, assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale School
of Medicine w
Contact: Martha Molnar
American Society for Technion - Israel Institute of Technology