Magnets offer alternative for depression patients

UT Southwestern is the only clinical trial site in the country using a new form of brain stimulation to treat major depression. Preliminary findings indicate that magnetic seizure therapy can ease depression without the cognitive side effects associated with electroconvulsive therapy.

“ECT is one of the most effective treatments available in psychiatry today, especially for severe depression.” 

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Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT):

Small electric currents pass through the brain while the patient is under general anesthesia, triggering a brief seizure.

This substantially improves symptoms of certain mental illnesses. 

{Kala Bailey, M.D./Asst. Professor, Psychiatry/Director, Inpatient Psychiatric Unit}

“Typically the seizure lasts about 30 – 45 seconds.” 

“The whole thing, start to finish, is about five minutes.” 

“Our patients generally have 10-15 treatments like that.”

{Will Clark, M.D./Asst. Professor, Psychiatry}

“It’s very common with ECT for people to become increasingly forgetful as they move along between their treatment series. The hope is that with MST, the short-term memory issues that are very common with ECT, either do not develop at all, or if they do, they’re very mild in their severity.”

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Magnetic Seizure Therapy (MST):

Magnetic pulses, instead of electric, stimulate a precise target in the brain. 

{Mustafa Husain, M.D./Professor, Psychiatry, Neurology and Neurotherapeutics}

“The CREST trial is a comparison between ECT and MST.

“We are the only place right now in the United States where we are doing MST studies and trial.”

{SUPER: Joshua Hubregsen, M.D./Asst. Professor, Psychiatry}

“Once we are ready to begin the procedure…we get the magnetic coil out. And this would have already been measured beforehand so that it fits correctly.” 

“We place the device on the head here.

“And that’s it.”

“Once the seizure is actually occurring, we can monitor the progress of the seizure by looking at our EEG monitor here...which just shows the left and right side of the brain.”

{Clark} “The hope is that with MST, the short-term memory issues that are very common with ECT, either do not develop at all, or if they do, they’re very mild in their severity.”

“The acute series with MST is then same as with ECT, so patients are coming ideally three times a week for treatment.”  

{Husain} “We hope that stigma that is related with these kinds of therapy, will not be widespread.”

“The patients, as well as the families, will be a lot more comfortable in coming forward and getting the kind of treatment, which will help them, not only short term, but hopefully for long term.”