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Surprising Science

New Device to Treat Depression with Electromagnetism

A new medical device built by a Jerusalem-based company will go before the FDA soon for approval. Treatment involves wearing a helmet with strong magnets wired to electricity. 

What’s the Latest Development?

The Jerusalem-based company Brainsway will shortly ask the Food and Drug Administration to approve a new device which treats depression by using magnetic fields to stimulate structures deep within the brain. Called deep transcranial magnetic stimulation, patients will wear a helmet in which powerful electromagnets have been placed. “When a pulse of electricity flows through the magnets’ coils, the resulting magnetic field induces current to flow through a portion of the brain.” Though magnetic fields quickly fade in the brain, the new treatment was designed to extend the power of the field deep into the brain’s structure. 

What’s the Big Idea?

In testing, the procedure reduced rates of depression by a score of three on the Hamilton depression rating scale, which doctors use to evaluate the severity of depression. Measuring the symptoms of depression directly, of those who received the magnetic stimulation, 30.4 percent went into remission and 36.7 percent showed significant improvement. “Research into device-based treatments for psychiatric problems has grown rapidly, and if the FDA gives its go-ahead, Brainsway’s system will become the fourth device-based therapy to go on the market since 2005.”

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