A groundbreaking study conducted by researchers at UCLA Health has shown that repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) can effectively treat major depressive symptoms, even in patients who have not responded to multiple rounds of antidepressant medication. The study’s findings indicate that rTMS may have a more rapid onset of action than previously believed, with some patients experiencing symptom relief as early as one week into treatment.
In the study, which was published in Psychiatry Research, the Neuromodulation Division of UCLA’s Semel Institute analyzed data from hundreds of patients treated with rTMS therapy between 2009 and 2022. Using magnetic fields to rewire the brain’s circuitry, rTMS resulted in a clinical response, defined as at least a 50% improvement in mood symptoms, in 54% of patients when assessed using multiple depression rating scales.
What sets UCLA’s approach apart is their “precision TMS” model, where patients receive regular psychiatric monitoring and symptom measurement using various rating scales. This unique approach allows for a more accurate assessment of treatment effectiveness compared to previous studies that utilized fewer measurement scales.
Dr. Michael K. Leuchter, the lead author of the study and a senior psychiatry resident at the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, highlighted the encouraging results. He emphasized that a majority of patients showed significant improvement, with many reporting positive changes within the first week of treatment, even though the treatment itself continued for several weeks to maximize its benefits.
Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation involves stimulating specific brain circuits involved in mood regulation using magnetic fields. Patients typically receive 20-30 minute treatment sessions five days a week for six to eight weeks. Since its approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2008 for the treatment of medication-resistant major depressive disorder, rTMS has emerged as a relatively new alternative to traditional antidepressant medications.
While the effectiveness of rTMS has previously shown some variability, the UCLA research team has been working towards unraveling the factors behind this variability and identifying predictors of treatment response. Their examination of 708 patients receiving TMS treatment revealed that the choice of depression rating scale significantly impacts the observed response rates. By utilizing multiple scales, the researchers were able to detect and characterize the effectiveness of rTMS treatment more comprehensively.
Moreover, the study found that early improvements reported within the first five or ten treatments were strong predictors of the overall treatment response. This discovery opens the possibility for clinicians to modify their treatment approach based on early indications of patient progress.
This exciting research at UCLA Health sheds new light on the potential of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation as a rapid and effective treatment for major depressive disorder, offering hope to patients who have struggled with traditional medication options. By continuing to refine and optimize the use of rTMS, researchers are paving the way for more personalized and targeted treatments for depression.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- What is repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)?
- How does rTMS work?
- Is rTMS a new treatment?
- How long does rTMS treatment typically last?
- Can rTMS benefit patients who have not responded to antidepressant medication?
Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a non-invasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate specific brain circuits involved in mood regulation.
rTMS works by delivering magnetic pulses to targeted areas of the brain, which in turn modulate the brain’s neural activity and circuitry. By “rewiring” the brain’s circuitry, rTMS can potentially alleviate symptoms of depression.
Compared to most antidepressant medications, rTMS is relatively new. It received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2008 for the treatment of medication-resistant major depressive disorder.
Patients undergoing rTMS treatment usually receive 20-30 minute sessions, five days a week, for a period of six to eight weeks.
Yes, the study conducted by UCLA Health researchers showed that rTMS can effectively treat major depressive symptoms, even in patients who have not responded to multiple rounds of antidepressant medication.
(Source: University of California – Los Angeles Health Sciences)