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Depression: How To Overcome It

Are There New Treatments On The Horizon?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 15:34

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

New treatments for depression that are on the horizon include:

  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). This is a painless, experimental treatment for stimulating the brain without the use of electrodes, anesthesia, or surgical techniques. Basically, in a series of treatments, a clinician passes a powerful electromagnet over the skull, mainly targeting the left side of the forehead. Certain magnetic fields are thought to stimulate neurons, although exactly why is not yet known. TMS does not cause the memory loss associated with ECT, and other than brief headache, there are no reported side effects. This treatment is under investigation and is considered very promising.
  • Cingulotomy . This is a form of brain surgery performed to alleviate chronic pain. It has shown promising results for easing depression in some people when all other treatments have failed. Neurosurgeons apply heat or cold to interrupt the cingulate gyrus, which is a bundle of nerve fibers in the brain's frontal lobe. Memory and intelligence are not affected.
  • Vagus nerve stimulation . Surgery is used to implant a small generator, about the size of a pocket watch, into the chest. Wires snake up into the neck to periodically stimulate the vagus nerve, which runs into the base of the brain. Vagus nerve stimulators have been used to reduce epileptic seizures, and they also show potential for severe depression.
  • Newer drugs. Pharmaceutical companies also are on a continual quest to develop antidepressant medications that work in different ways. For instance, it is believed that agents that inhibit substance P, a brain chemical associated with mood disturbance, may show potential.

Depression: How To Overcome It