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Magnetic Brain Stimulation can help treat drug resistant depression study finds

Bridie Smith, The Sydney Morning Herald |  July 9, 2016

Copyright© 2016 Fairfax Media

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John Campbell has depression. Diagnosed in 2011, the 58-year-old motor mechanic has been unable to work for two-and-a-half years. Next month he’ll return to the workplace, following successful treatment as part of a clinical trial into a non-invasive form of brain stimulation known as transcranial magnetic stimulation. According to the results of a new study, the once-controversial method of beaming magnetic fields into the frontal areas of the brain saw one third of the 1132 patients with severe depression go into remission.

Mr Campbell admits he was apprehensive about TMS initially but decided to go ahead with the trial because he wanted relief from the same debilitating condition that had dogged his father and stolen his brother at age 45.

Over the years, Mr Campbell had tried psychologists, psychiatrists and a range of medications. But none of these approaches addressed the deep-rooted emotions he said were always there.

“They addressed the symptoms but not the root cause,” he said. “It got to the point where I’d have done anything.”

It was his psychiatrist who suggested he try a TMS clinical trial run by Paul Fitzgerald, psychiatrist at The Alfred and Monash University.

As part of the trial, Mr Campbell had 30 treatments over four weeks, each of them lasting 20 minutes.

Three weeks in, his wife Sue Campbell was the first to notice a shift in his personality. He began interacting with his family more and appreciating the small things, such as a sunny day.

“It was the little things, I felt lighter,” he said.

Professor Fitzgerald, the lead author of the study reviewing 15 years’ worth of trial results, said it was the first time transcranial magnetic stimulation had been assessed as a treatment for depression on this scale.

It’s made me so much better…I have a future to look forward to.
John Campbell

Results showed that patients with recurrent rather than single-episode depression or those with less severe depression had a greater response rate to the treatment.

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