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Magstim – can a magnet really cure depression?

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Major depressive disorder (also known as clinical depression) is a mental disorder which is currently believed to affect over 298 million people across the world. Typically treated with anti-depressant drugs, there has been an ongoing hunt to find an alternative method of treatment with fewer potential side effects. Now there appears to be hope of a new treatment which involves nothing more than the use of resonating magnets.

Magstim is a system which uses repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to stimulate a specific part of the brain. This stimulation is designed to improve the blood flows and glucose metabolism of the brain, and normalize activity in the limbic area which is responsible for regulating our moods. This appears to alleviate the symptoms of the depressive attack.

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The treatment takes place over 3 to 6 weeks, with 5 sessions a week, and consists of cycles and rest periods of magnetic stimulation using the Magstim equipment. The technology is in its early days, but the results are encouraging. A recent study of 307 patients with MDD over 42 days resulted in 58% of them responding positively to the treatment, with 37% going into remission.

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The treatment has just received official FDA approval to enter into testing in the US, which is vindication of a technology which was originally developed at Sheffield University over 30 years ago. Who knows, one day we may all have our own personal portable Magstim magnetic devices which will ensure that we never have to sing the blues again.

Nigel is the managing editor of the Red Ferret, as well as a freelance columnist for the Sunday Times newspaper in London. Loves tech and fancies himself as a bit of a futurist, but then don’t we all?

Nigel – who has written posts on The Red Ferret Journal.


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