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Experimental Therapy for Treating Depression Helping Some


The American medical community is hopeful that a new, experimental therapy will help more than 19 million Americans who suffer from depression. Doctors are using magnets to "re-wire" the brain to end the often debilitating affects of depression.

Martha, a mother of two, had been experiencing depression for more than 20 years. Like millions of Americans, she suffers from depression, and is reluctant to discuss her illness. She asked that her real identity be concealed.

"I definitely think there is a stigma attached to it," she said.

Martha says depression left her unable to function. So, when medication and therapy didn't work, she turned to a form of deep-brain stimulation.

Dr. Sarah Lisanby at the New York State Psychiatric Institute conducted the treatment, called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS.

"We are at a very exciting time in psychiatry right now," she said. "We are just scratching the surface about what potential brain stimulation could add to our treatment options."

TMS works by using a pulsating magnet that sends a tiny, electrical current into the area of the brain affected by depression. The magnets "re-set" the brain's circuits and symptoms apparently are alleviated.

With TMS, Martha saw a drastic improvement within weeks. "I am happy, I can laugh easily," she said.

Early results have been successful, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have not approved the procedure. If proven safe and effective, TMS might be used for depression strokes, and epilepsy.

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