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Magnet Treatment for Depression Works for Some

Rigorous Study Finds rTMS Magnet Therapy Can Relieve Depression With Few Side Effects

rTMS Treatment Needs Refinement

What does all this mean for people looking for relief from depression?

For starters, it means that people have a new treatment option, says Matthew Rudorfer, MD, associate director for treatment research at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Rudorfer notes that in the study, people were more likely to benefit from rTMS if they received the treatment before trying (and failing to get relief from) more than one antidepressant medication.

"It is looking as if rTMS would be more effective earlier in the treatment course rather than later," Rudorfer tells WebMD. "More work needs to be done to find the right niche for this. We are very interested in personalizing treatment for depression, and this fits that theme. For a small but significant proportion of people who have not responded to medication -- one, probably, and not a whole series of drugs -- this could be a viable alternative."

Rudorfer suggests that in real-life clinical practice, doctors probably will combine rTMS treatment with antidepressant treatment.

The study showed that rTMS does not induce seizures and appears to be free of major adverse effects.

Lisanby notes that researchers are still working to optimize rTMS by finding the best treatment dose and duration, as well as by working to pinpoint the region of the brain where stimulation will have the greatest effect.

Although the study was funded by the NIMH without industry support, Lisanby reports receiving research grants with several companies involved with rTMS including Neuronetics Inc. Columbia University has a patent on TMS technology in Lisanby's name. Lisanby's research colleagues also disclose receiving grants, fees, and/or advisory board work for such firms.

The rTMS devices used in the study were the FDA-cleared NeuroStar devices made by Neuronetics. This device was selected in a competitive bidding process.

Lisanby and colleagues report their findings in the May issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

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