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Zapping the brain really does seem to improve depression

By New Scientist | Jan 9, 2017

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Now we know – zapping the brain with electricity really does seem to improve some medical conditions, meaning it may be a useful tool for treating depression.

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) involves using electrodes to send a weak current across the brain. Stimulating brain tissue like this has been linked to effects ranging from accelerated learning to improving the symptoms of depression and faster recovery from strokes.

Thousands of studies have suggested the technique may be useful for everything from schizophrenia and Parkinson’s to tinnitus and autism.

However, replicating such studies has generally been difficult, and two recent analyses found no evidence that tDCS is effective, leading some to say that the technique is largely a sham.

“There are too many folks out there right now who are using electrical brain stimulation in a cavalier way,” says Michael Weisend, a tDCS researcher at Rio Grande Neuroscience in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “At best it has an effect that’s poorly understood, at worst it could be dangerous.”

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