Revolution in Treatment Against Depression

A new form of magnetic brain stimulation rapidly relieved symptoms of severe depression in 90% of participants in a small study conducted by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The researchers are conducting a larger, double-blinded trial in which half the participants are receiving fake treatment. The researchers are optimistic the second trial will prove to be similarly effective in treating people whose condition hasn’t improved with medication, talk therapy or other forms of electromagnetic stimulation.

The treatment is called Stanford Accelerated Intelligent Neuromodulation Therapy, or SAINT. It is a form of transcranial magnetic stimulation, which is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treatment of depression. The researchers reported that the therapy improves on current FDA-approved protocols by increasing the number of magnetic pulses, speeding up the pace of the treatment and targeting the pulses according to each individual’s neurocircuitry.

Before undergoing the therapy, all 21 study participants were severely depressed, according to several diagnostic tests for depression. Afterward, 19 of them scored within the nondepressed range. Although all of the participants had suicidal thoughts before the therapy, none of them reported having suicidal thoughts after treatment. All 21 participants had previously not experienced improvements with medications, FDA-approved transcranial magnetic stimulation or electroconvulsive therapy. The only side effects of the new therapy were fatigue and some discomfort during treatment, the study reported.

There’s never been a therapy for treatment-resistant depression that’s broken 55% remission rates in open-label testing,” said Nolan Williams, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and a senior author of the study. “Electroconvulsive therapy is thought to be the gold standard, but it has only an average 48% remission rate in treatment-resistant depression. No one expected these kinds of results.”

The results were published online April 6 in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Source: https://med.stanford.edu/

Memory In Older Adults Restored To Young Adult Level

Stimulating a precise location of the brain’s memory center with electromagnetic pulses improved the memory of older adults with age-related memory loss to the level of young adults, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study. The study, published in the journal Neurology, used Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to target the hippocampus — the brain region that atrophies as people grow older, which is responsible for memory decline.

Older people’s memory got better up to the level that we could no longer tell them apart from younger people,” said lead investigator Joel Voss, PhD, associate professor in the Ken and Ruth Davee Department of Neurology. “They got substantially better.” “It’s the part of the brain that links two unrelated things together into a memory, like the place you left your keys or your new neighbor’s name,” said Voss, also an associate professor of Medical Social Sciences and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. “Older adults often complain about having trouble with this.” This type of memory worsens as we age. Nearly all people experience a decline in their memory ability as they age.

The new study of 16 people — ages 64 to 80 with normal age-related memory problems — shows it’s possible to alter memory ability in older adults using this type of brain stimulation, Voss said. “There is no previous evidence that the specific memory impairments and brain dysfunction seen in older adults can be rescued using brain stimulation or any other method.

Voss’ team located the hippocampus — which is smaller in older adults — individually for each participant with an fMRI. An fMRI (functional MRI) measures how active a part of the brain is at a given time Then, they located an area of the parietal lobe that communicates with the hippocampus for stimulation delivery. This spot was behind and slightly above a person’s left ear, but everyone had a slightly different spot. It isn’t possible to directly stimulate the hippocampus with TMS, which is noninvasive, because it’s too deep in the brain for the magnetic fields to penetrate. So, Voss and colleagues identified a superficial brain region close to the surface of the skull with high connectivity to the hippocampus.

We stimulated where brain activity is synchronized to the hippocampus, suggesting that these regions talk to each other,” said first author Aneesha Nilakantan, a neuroscience graduate student working in Voss’ lab. At baseline, younger and older adults were given memory tasks in which they learned arbitrary relations between paired things, such as this object goes on this spot on the computer screen. Younger adults score about 55 percent correct and older adults less than 40 percent correct. The research team then applied high-frequency repetitive magnetic stimulation to the spot for five consecutive days for 20 minutes a d

Then, 24 hours after the final stimulation, the subjects were given a new memory test in which they had to learn new arbitrary relations between paired things. After the brain stimulation, older adults scored at the level of young adults on the memory tasks.

Source: https://news.feinberg.northwestern.edu/