Last year, Neuronetics' NeuroStar TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) Therapy system became the first device of its kind to be cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating depression. Although, the similarity to a dentist chair was probably not a great idea.
Nonetheless, trials on 164 patients with unipolar, non-psychotic major depressive disorder using the device proved that treatment with short magnetic-field pulses to the left prefrontal cortex can be a viable alternative to medication. After 30- to 40-minute daily sessions, half of the patients in the trial experienced significant improvement, while a third reported complete resolution. Plus, the only statistically significant side effect was mild discomfort in the treatment area. Currently, patients can receive NeuroStar treatments in a psychiatrist's office while remaining completely awake and alert.
Given all of the uncertainty and danger surrounding many psychiatric drugs, NeuroStar seems like it's worth a shot for people suffering from serious bouts of depression. It could also be a sign of things to come. Perhaps technology like this will one day be implanted directly into our brains — making us feel awesome all the time. [NeuroStar and Medical News Today via PopSci]