A new clinical trial has tested the ability of a little-studied, noninvasive brain stimulation technique to treat the symptoms of major depression. The results, so far, have been more than promising.
A different type of electrical brain stimulation has shown much promise for the treatment of depression.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine in Chapel Hill have recently conducted a double-blind pilot clinical study testing a type of electrical brain stimulation therapy called “transcranial alternating current stimulation” (tACS) in people with major depression.
In double-blind studies, neither the participants nor the scientists who administer the treatment know who is set to receive which intervention.
This approach ensures added objectivity, which provides more reliable results.
The UNC researchers who conducted this pilot trial were interested in tACS as a therapy for depression and potentially other mental health conditions. They recognized it as a little-studied, more patient-friendly form of electrical brain stimulation.
Electrical brain stimulation does not constitute a new approach in the treatment of depression, but experts usually turn to transcranial direct stimulation (tDCS), which sends low direct electrical currents into the nervous system through electrodes that attach to a person’s head.
Although this type of therapy has shown some promise, the team from UNC notes that the technique is not consistently effective. That is why the researchers decided to try testing tACS instead.
Rather than sending a steady flow of electrical current into the brain like tDCS, tACS can instead tackle a person’s alpha oscillations, which are brain waves with a frequency of 8–12 Hertz. Specialists can measure these waves using an electroencephalogram.