Tuesday, 21 Oct, 2008 Science

FDA Approves Magnetic Brain Therapy


Recently US Food and Drugs Administration put its first stamp of approval for transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which is expected to treat migraine, depression and stroke. There are rumors that TMS can even raise a patient from coma.

The FDA mentioned that TMS can help adults who suffer from depression, but who do not respond to antidepressants. Transcranial magnetic stimulation features an electromagnetic coil which is held over patient's head. The coil stimulates the underlying brain tissue.

Magnetic fields, which are rapidly changing, generate small electric currents in brain tissue, exciting or impeding brain cells, thus easing or hardening communication with each other. Scientists performed a number of large trials were they discovered that TMS could be useful in treating depression, exciting cells in the some of the regions in the brain that are involved in mood regulation.

Neuronetics of Malvern, Pennsylvania, a privately-owned medical device company who is also one of the leaders in neuromodulation, developed the TMS device. In its latest trial, which was submitted to the FDA, the device showed that over a half of patients suffering from depression had shown significant improvements after being exposed to a 40-minute session each week for a period of 4 to 6 weeks, NewScientist reports.

Mark George of the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, was the one who initiated the use of TMS in patients suffering from depression during the mid 1990s. He mentioned that some scientists are still skeptical about the effectiveness of TMS. The researcher will carry on studying the TMS in order to see whether the device really works. The results of his latest trial will be available next year.

Those, who supported the FDA approval, mentioned that further research is still necessary, in order to establish an optimum dose and decide which patients have more chances of benefiting from TMS.

"Only some patients respond to TMS for depression, so part of the process for optimizing it is to find ways of screening patients," said Vincent Walsh of University College London.

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