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World first magnet treatment study aims to give hope to teenagers with depression

Megan Bailey | Berwick Leader | May 12, 2015 12:00AM

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A WORLD first study that uses magnetic technology to treat severe depression in teenagers is under way in Dandenong.

Monash Health is using transcranial magnetic stimulation to find out whether it is effective in treating young people with severe depression in cases where medication has not worked. The technology is similar to that of an MRI.

If approved, it would be safer and cheaper than electro­convulsive therapy (ECT), the last resort for severe depression.

The trial was partly funded by donations made at Woolworths supermarkets throughout Casey.

Head of child psychiatry at Monash Health Dr Michael Gordon said the therapy had been shown to be effective in some adults with depression so there was reason to believe it could work on teenage brains.

Dr Gordon said scans of the brain activity of depressed adults showed slower activity in the left side of the brain’s frontal lobe and faster activity in the right side of the lobe.

In healthy people brain activity is the same speed on both sides.

“The theory is that in the forebrain, around the temple area of the brain, waves are much slower on the left and that asymmetry causes depression,” he said. “Using (transcranial magnetic stimulation) is a lot less intrusive (than ECT). It’s much safer than ECT as a treatment.”

Dr Gordon said about 35 more trial participants were needed.

To be eligible, trial participants need to be teenagers with severe depression who have not responded to medication.

All participants must be actively managed by a clinician outside of the study during their participation.

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