Health Team

Duke study shows magnet therapy can help depression

Posted February 5, 2013

Duke psychiatrist Dr. Andrew Krystal demonstrates the TMS helmet on Rosa Zou-Jhang.

Fifteen years ago, Mary Margaret Elmayan was going through a divorce – as well as a sudden onset of severe depression.

“In just a series of days I couldn't get out of bed, I couldn't stay awake, I couldn't sleep,” she said.

Elmayan said she even had thoughts of suicide. Psychotherapy and medication were not effective enough, so she joined a trial at Duke Medicine. They were looking at a new type of transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS.

TMS therapy is approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a treatment option. Psychiatrists say it's less invasive and has fewer side effects than electro-convulsive therapy.

In the Duke study, participants wear a helmet with a special coil that delivers a magnetic stimulus to the brain.

“Saw a nice electrical response in the hand muscle,” Duke psychiatrist Dr. Andrew Krystal said as he demonstrated the helmet on Rosa Jou-Zhang.

Magnets stimulating brain could help depression, Duke study says Magnets stimulating brain could help depression, Duke study finds

Once he's able to stimulate the area of the brain that makes her hand move, he can then find the area in the prefrontal cortex where depression resides.

TMS therapy isn't new, but researchers have been looking for more effective ways to deliver it.

“This particular study used a different coil – called an H coil – which penetrates more deeply than the previously FDA approved figure 8 coil,” said Dr. Sarah Lisanby, a Duke psychiatrist.

Images show the H coil affects a broader region of the brain.

Study participants either got the actual treatment, or a fake one. Elmayan learned she got the real thing.

“I realized I was sleeping better. I realized all of the sudden that food tasted better,” she said. “It was just wonderful. I was so excited. I felt like I was myself again. For me it's nothing short of miraculous.”


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  • raleighdurham Feb 11, 2013

    you got it, 2Things.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Feb 8, 2013

    I totally agree that we should not stigmatize mental illness and need to concentrate on treating it.

    We could even guarantee mental health coverage for everyone with maybe something like...ummm...Universal Healthcare.

    If only some politician would introduce such a thing, surely everyone would support it...

  • Trixie Feb 8, 2013

    2Things. You are so right. The first thing we say when something like Sandy Hook happens is why didn't anyone see how distribed he was. And yet, we make seeking help for menatl disorders something to be ashamed about.

  • Trixie Feb 8, 2013

    BLAH, BLAH . . . Yes, for being down in the dumps exercise does help. But you have obviously no idea about a major depression. It is debilitating. You can't even bring yourself to shower or get out of bed. let alone walk a mile. You can't function normally. You are very lucky you have never experienced it but that doesn't mean it's not a serious condition.

  • 2Things Feb 7, 2013

    Ignorent comments like those below are one reason mental health in this country is abysmal. How can we every hope to move forward to have a comprehensive health care program when the stigma regarding depression exists in closed minds? Did you ever think this type of thinking contributes to behavior as we just witnessed with the Newton massacre?

  • BlahBlahBlahBlahBlah Feb 7, 2013

    Exercise-exercise-exercise......that will bring you out of the dumps....
    Do you really think the people in the olden days used magnets to help them.l..NO...They used positive thinking to get out of their depression....exercise...and they avoided certain foods that definitely will put you in the dumps..

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Feb 7, 2013

    P.T. Barnum said it right, There's one born every minute.

    All this really is:

  • hollylama Feb 7, 2013

    It works...there are some good magnetic pulsers on the internet.