Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. It is estimated that 21 million adults had at least one major depressive episode last year.

For many people, depression can be alleviated with medication and therapy. But some traditional treatments do not help. Now there is a new treatment that can change everything.

Robert Mason knows what it’s like to live with depression.

“For me, it was neither energy nor motivation,” Mason explained.

Most people are helped by antidepressants, but more than three million suffer from treatment-resistant depression, or TRD.

Patients with TRD are often treated with electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, when small electric currents pass through the brain, causing a seizure and causing changes in the chemical composition of the brain that reverse the symptoms of depression.

“This is one of our most controversial treatments in psychiatry, in part because it works so effectively, but it also causes cognitive side effects,” said Dr. Zafiris Daskalakis, chairman of psychiatry in San Diego.

Some of the cognitive side effects include confusion and memory loss.

In the first-of-its-kind study, psychiatrists from the California College of San Diego investigated whether the use of magnets could be just as effective, or even better, in treating TRD.

Dr Daskalakis said: “Magnets and magnetic fields can activate the brain in a very similar way.”

MST, or magnetic seizure therapy, delivers high-intensity magnetic field pulses to the brain.

“The advantage of magnetic seizure therapy is that it causes the same type of seizure as electroconvulsive therapy, although much more targeted and does not spread throughout the brain,” added Dr. Daskalakis.

In a study of 30 people over 12 sessions, two-thirds were improved without any adverse cognitive effects. The recurrence rate during MST was also lower.

Repeated transcranial magnetic stimulation, or rTMS, is already FDA approved. Next, the researchers plan to conduct a larger study. Doctors hope that the results will help make this therapy more widespread and will even become a therapy that can be used at home.

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