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Electrical Brain Stimulation for Fibromyalgia

Small French study saw improvement in people's mood, quality of life

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"We had a decrease in pain, fatigue and depression," he said.

This is achieved by targeting the areas of the brain specifically involved in pain and in social and emotional well-being, Manevitz said.

"Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a very safe treatment," Manevitz said. Much is still not known about how effective it is in treating fibromyalgia, however. Questions such as how long the treatment effect lasts and how often it should be repeated need to be investigated, he said.

Manevitz said transcranial magnetic stimulation is not currently approved for treating fibromyalgia, so treatment would be "off-label." The technique was approved for treating depression by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2008.

For the new study, 38 people -- mostly women -- who suffered from persistent fibromyalgia pain for more than six months were randomly assigned to either 14 sessions of real brain stimulation or a fake stimulation given over 10 weeks.

At the eleventh week, patients were asked about their quality of life and also had PET scans to assess any changes in their brains.

The researchers found that those who had received magnetic brain stimulation had a greater improvement in quality of life than those who received the shame stimulation.

The improvement in quality of life was seen in mood or feelings; emotional measures, such as joy, sadness, anger and anxiety; and social areas, such as work performance, participation in social activities, contact with friends and engaging in hobbies and interests. These findings correlated with changes seen in the PET brain scans, the researchers said.

At the start of the study, participants had an average score of 60 on the quality-of-life questionnaire, on which scores range from zero to 100. In this ranking, lower scores indicate better quality of life.

After treatment, the average score of those receiving the brain stimulation dropped by about 10 points, while scores increased an average of two points for those who received the fake treatment, the researchers said.

Although the study found an association between transcranial magnetic stimulation and improved quality of life, it did not prove a cause-and-effect link.

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