The last hope for the most severe depression today is electroconvulsive therapy. But she can still affect the memory for weeks after the treatment. A gentle alternative seems to be the so-called "transcranial magnetic stimulation". Doctors and psychologists at the University Hospital Bonn come to this conclusion in an article published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. Find out more about Magnetic Field Therapy for Depression here.
Conventional treatment for depression
Depression is now considered treatable: with psychotherapy or medication can help most people affected by a depressive episode. However, about five percent of all patients sink so deeply into melancholy that they no longer respond to these healing methods. Because depression is one of the most common mental illnesses - every sixth person is affected at least once in a lifetime - that's a huge number.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
In these cases, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is considered a drug of choice. At the same time the patient is anesthetized. Then the doctors pass current pulses through his head through two electrodes, triggering an epileptic seizure. This changes the brain chemistry in the forehead, a region that, among other things, regulates affects and controls attention.
Effective therapy - bad image
For every second patient who has not responded to other treatments before, after a few weeks of treatment, it will be so much better that you can treat him or her with medication or psychotherapy. Therefore, this electroconvulsive therapy is still used in severe depressants.
Nevertheless, the public image of this method was very negative for a long time - not least thanks to the classic movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". In it, a psychiatric inmate is "tamed" for his rebellious behavior with ECt treatment. However, the current form of ECT is considered well-tolerated.
Side effect of ECT: memory disorders
However, the treatment can still affect the memory weeks later. Because the current flow is not targeted enough, but also hits the hippocampus, the "memory center" in our brain. Although these memory disorders usually return slowly, they are understandably often perceived as disturbing by patients.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
Recently, another treatment method has come to the fore, which has few side effects: In "Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation" (TMS), doctors place a coil on the patient's forehead. This creates for a few minutes a strong pulsating magnetic field, which in turn causes a flow of electricity in the brain. However, this is so low that it causes no epileptic seizure. The patient experiences the painless treatment with full awareness.
Study results for magnetic field therapy
The Bonn-based physicians treated a total of 30 severely depressed patients with either electroconvulsive therapy or magnetic stimulation. Both methods worked equally well: One in two patients felt a clear improvement in mood one week after the treatment series.
"Although the classification of the groups did not happen randomly, which limits the meaningfulness, " constrained study leader Wagner. "Also, the number of participants is too small for us to be able to conclude on efficacy." But other studies speak for the mood-enhancing effect of magnetic stimulation.
Memory remains unimpaired in magnetic stimulation
The patients treated with magnetic stimulation subsequently performed as well or even better in different memory tests than before the therapy. In the participants of the EKT group, the memory deteriorated, as the psychologist Svenja Schulze-Rauschenbach found out.
Magnetic therapy as a new form of therapy in depression
Nevertheless, magnetic stimulation is not a panacea, especially as it - like the ECT - does not permanently defeat the depression. Patients still have to be treated with other methods afterwards. "The TMS is just a new therapeutic tool that can not help with all depression, " Michael Wagner defends because too high expectations.
Only at a few facilities in Germany, the effect of the relatively new treatment for severe depression is examined. On the horizon, however, are already waving new devices that could be even more effective. The magnetic field generated by them is so strong that it can also trigger an epileptic seizure.
However, in contrast to ECT, the current flow in magnetic therapy is limited to the "mood region" in the brain - the hippocampus remains unaffected.