There have been great strides made lately when it comes to treating depression. In a recent study, Dr. Ian A. Cook, the Miller Family Professor of Psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, concluded that trigeminal nerve stimulation (TNS) has been shown to improve depression symptoms by a whopping 70 percent.
In the eight-week trial, electrodes were attached to the forehead while the patient was sleeping, usually 8 hours. These electrodes transmitted an electric current to the nerve which is just below the skin’s surface. Wires from the electrodes were connected to a stimulation box about the size of an iPod. Unlike anti-depressants, this non-evasive treatment not has no known side effects. At the end of the study, 80 percent of the participants were in remission.
Cook theorized that by sending an electric current to the trigeminal nerve, it would have a domino effect on the neuronal infrastructure. “The major branches of the trigeminal nerve in the face are located close to the surface of the skull and can be stimulated either with non-invasive external electrodes, as we used in this trial, or with minimally invasive subcutaneous electrodes,” Cook said. The idea to use this treatment was spawned from the great success it received in treating patients with epilepsy.
Dr. Christopher M. DeGiorgio, who worked alongside Cook in this study, was responsible for pioneering this treatment when he used it to treat patients with epilepsy. “Most people with chronic epilepsy who have continuing seizures are drug-resistant,” says DeGiorgio. “In addition, anti-seizure drugs can have significant side effects on behavior, thinking and alertness. Women taking anti-seizure drugs and their unborn children are at special risk because of the effect of these drugs on fetal growth and development. For all of these reasons, we need to find non-drug alternative treatments” (Page, 2006).
The same is true for the treatment of depression. There are too many side effects that accompany anti-depressants such as obesity, fatigue, decreased sex drive, and nausea. UCLA is currently screening people who may be eligible to participate in an upcoming study to further research TNS. For more information about this study you can call (310) 267-1871 or visit http://www.depressionla.com/flyer/TrigeminalFlyer.pdf
Page, D. (2006). UCLA develops unique nerve-stimulation epilepsy treatment; “Brain pacemaker” designed as external or implant device. Retrieved September 3, 2010, from http://www.newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/UCLA-Develops-Unique-Nerve-stimulation-7163.aspx?RelNum=7163
University of California – Los Angeles (2010, September 2). Non-invasive therapy significantly improves depression, UCLA researchers say. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 3, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2010/09/100903092507.htm