Transcranial stimulation is an effective treatment for severe depression. But while the standard version runs in 37-minute sessions, one study shows that three minutes are enough to treat patients.
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses. In France, it affects 15 to 20% of French people during their lifetime, or nearly nine million people. For patients with severe depression, there is treatment: repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). Concretely, we put a magnetic coil against a part of the skull to stimulate or inhibit the activity of neurons.
The treatment consists of several sessions, which usually last about thirty minutes. But according to a large study conducted by Canadian researchers, a three-minute session is just as effective. The results of this study are published in The Lancet.
A new form of treatment
Researchers at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and Health Network's Krembil Research Institute University have compared the standard version of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation to a new version. In the standard version, brain stimulation is high frequency (10Hz) and lasts an average of 37 minutes per session. The new form of rTMS called iTBS (for intermittent theta burst stimulation) mimics the natural rhythm of the brain. Each session lasts an average of just over three minutes.
414 participants, suffering from depression with resistance to treatment, were divided into two groups. Each group received one of two types of treatment.
Better remission rate with short sessions
49% of patients who received iTBS treatment experienced depression symptoms. Among them, 32% reported a remission, compared to 27% for patients who received the standard version of treatment.
"The main consequence of this study is that the number of people that can be treated with iTBS can be multiplied by three to four compared to standard transcranial magnetic stimulation," says Dr. Daniel Blumberger, lead author of the study. Because sessions are shorter, more patients can be treated in the same day, which will improve access to care.