UF researchers show magnetic stimulation may be a safe alternative to shock therapy

GAINESVILLE---An experimental therapy that uses magnetic stimulation to treat severe depression could prove to be a viable option for patients who otherwise would resort to electric shock therapy, University of Florida researchers report.

In the past decade, magnets have attracted the interest of many health consumers and have carved out a sizeable niche in the alternative medicine market as a treatment for multiple ailments -- from arthritis to back pain.

Now a preliminary study, one of the first to provide scientific evidence of magnets' medical benefits, suggests magnetic stimulation may lead to a safe, revolutionary treatment for patients with clinical depression who do not respond to standard medications.

The treatment, called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), uses powerful magnetic fields that pulse in fractions of a second to induce a small electrical current in the brain, said Dr. William Triggs, an associate professor of neurology in UF's College of Medicine and the study's principal investigator.

"This treatment theoretically has the potential to supplement, if not replace, the treatment of depression with electroconvulsive therapy, otherwise known as shock therapy," said Triggs, who also is affiliated with UF's Brain Institute. "That's the most effective, rapidly acting treatment available for people who are severely depressed."

UF's findings, which appeared in July's journal Biological Psychiatry, mirror results from other recent studies conducted elsewhere. After two weeks of daily magnetic treatment, the 10 patients evaluated in the UF study showed improvement in tests that rate depression levels, and the results lasted up to three months. While other studies examined the treatment's efficacy, UF researchers wanted to focus specifically on its potential adverse effects to determine whether it may be a suitable alternative to current methods.

Electroconvulsive therapy and rTMS were both based on research

Contact: Eric Benjamin Lowe
University of Florida

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