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Living Healthy

Magnetic currents used to treat depression

UNDATED (WHDH) -- A new treatment to zap the blues away for some people suffering from depression involves pushing powerful magnetic currents through the part of the brain that controls emotion - all while the patient sits back, and relaxes.

When a patient suffering from depression walks into office for a round TMS treatment, they lay down in what looks like a dental chair, have a padded plate placed on the right side of their head, and sit back and watch tv or listen to music for 37 and a half minutes.

"You walk in, you walk out. You're not put to sleep. There's no anesthesia," said Dr. Blake Casher, a psychiatrist.

Though the treatment is relatively new, some patients have experienced good results with few side effects.

"It's a new technique involving magnets, just like an MRI machine," said Dr. Casher.

These magnets stimulate the prefrontal cortex of the brain and encourage the production of serotonin and dopamine, chemicals that fight depression.

"This is a treatment for people who have either failed medication or do not do well with medication," said Dr. Casher.

The treatment was approved by the FDA in 2008 and has been used 20,000 times in the United States. There are 16 TMS machines in Michigan but only one in the Lansing area. More studies are underway to see just how effective the treatment is.

Some health insurance companies have approved the treatment, and others are waiting until more studies come out.

So far, there have been no side effects in patients, but it will be some time until doctors know just how effective the treatment is and how long the relief lasts.