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Brain Stimulation Plus Drug May Fight Depression

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Brunoni hopes this study will stimulate additional trials using this approach. "If other studies are also positive, tDCS might be a clinical therapy in the future," he said.

People suffering from major depression usually need lifetime treatment, he added. If these study results pan out, this could mean taking antidepressants daily and undergoing weekly sessions of brain stimulation for optimal relief, he said.

Another expert said brain stimulation looks "very promising" as an emerging new treatment for depression. "The safety profile is excellent," said Dr. Colleen Loo, a professor in the School of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales in Australia. "It is a very mild form of brain stimulation, no risk of seizures, does not impair thinking and may in fact improve thinking," she said.

Currently, tDCS is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat any condition, Lisanby said.

However, another noninvasive, brain-stimulating technique is FDA-approved and clinically available, she said. That technique -- called transcranial magnetic stimulation (tMS) -- uses a magnetic field to induce electrical changes within the brain.

Other potential treatments for depression that are undergoing testing include vagus nerve stimulation (this is the nerve running from the brain to deep in the belly) and deep brain stimulation, she said.

More information

For more information on depression, visit the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

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