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Three-minutes of theta-burst therapy can help conquer depression

Jesse Tahirali, | Published Sunday, January 25, 2015 10:10PM EST

Copyright © 2015 Bell Media All Rights Reserved.

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The grey clouds of depression are difficult to shake.

Approximately eight per cent of Canadian adults will experience a major depression at some point in their lives, according to Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Medication often fails to temper the debilitating effects of the illness. Only one third of patients report improvement after their first round of treatment, and some fail to improve regardless of what they’re prescribed.

Gail Bellissimo, a Mississauga mother of four, was one of those people who still suffer even after seeking help.

“I tried just about every drug out there, antidepressant of all kinds,” Bellissimo said. “They just either didn’t work for me or the side effects were too much for me to take.”

But after years of living through the lows, Bellissimo said it only took three minutes to pick her up out of her depression.

She was driving home when her new treatment began to take effect.

“It was so unnerving at first,” she said. “At first it was like, “Wow, is this what it feels like to be normal?’”

Bellissimo participated in a four-week study for something called theta-burst stimulation, a treatment that involves delivering magnetic pulses to the brain.

Theta-burst stimulation is a more powerful type of transcranial magnetic stimulation, a proven form of treatment for illnesses like depression.

The original treatment uses a magnetic-field-generating device that subjects the brain to low-frequency magnetic pulses.

The magnetic field elicits a response in the brain’s neurons, which communicate using electricity.

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