A breakthrough device that can relieve deep depression (video)

A very small group of several hundred Americans is trying a medical treatment at home that involves electrical stimulation of a part of the brain.

Sounds a bit “strange science”.

But the headscarf that Susan McClegon wears daily gives her head peace and relief from the deep, debilitating depression she has experienced for most of her life.

Susan Micklegon: I had a very stressful – very stressful – childhood. I had a violent father. And at the age of eleven, it was the first time I had a suicidal idea.

NEWSY’S JASON BELLINI: how old are you?

Micklegon: 68. Therefore, I did not get past the thinking stage. I never tried suicide. But I certainly fell for that idea.

Micklejohn, a retired college professor and amateur artist, is one of the nearly three million adults in America with depression that does not respond to medication. Now she is one of a very small group – only a few hundred – trying a medical treatment at home that involves electrical stimulation of part of the brain.

Bellini: How many medications have you tried?

Micklegon: I say 10. …I’ve always been very, very eager to do what it takes to get out of this.

So she tried ketamine — the most common in anaesthesia — paying more than $16,000 out of pocket to see if the new numbing treatment, now being offered in hundreds of American clinics, could provide her some relief. I did, but not for long.

“It makes you feel good,” said Micklegon. “So, that went on for three days. Then it came back on.”

Back again to suicidal thoughts. Then, a few months ago, Michelgon heard about a new treatment protocol — one she could try at home.

It is provided by a team led by Lee Charvet, a neuropsychologist at NYU Langone Health. She is a pioneer in research into transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) as a treatment for a wide range of neurological disorders, including depression.

“I have to say, out of all our experience with tDCS, the response in the depression trial has been pretty impressive,” Charvet said.

The treatment is considered low-risk enough to allow Jason Bellini at Newsy to try it, aggressively.

In his lab, at City College of New York, Marom Bickson develops sophisticated methods of “neural modulation.”

“Neuromodulation as a field is the use of devices to deliver energy in a controlled way to the nervous system to change the body,” he said. “When you think about something, when you feel something, it’s all electricity. We’re adding electricity into the mix. So, maybe it’s kind of not surprising that an electrical organ is sensitive to incoming electricity.”

Bellini: What do you think is the most exciting now when it comes to this field in general?

Marom Bexon: The first is more and more advanced technologies Energy can be delivered to the nervous system in a more deliberate and targeted manner. Therefore, more and more privacy.

To illustrate, Becson configured Bellini to conduct an experiment to see if targeted electrical stimulation could improve one’s focus while doing a boring, repetitive task.

Bellini: Is there a nice spot you’re trying to get to?

“This pole right here is roughly above a part of your brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex,” Bickson said.

This is an area of ​​the brain associated with problem solving, attention switching, memory management, and inhibition.

Bexon: Now, you’re in the full current, can you feel it?

Bellini: I feel itchy, that’s for sure.

Itching, where the electrode touched Bellini’s scalp, which he says disappeared within a few minutes. He had no other feeling than that.

In terms of the game, as Bellini showed in an analysis afterwards, stimulation appears to improve his performance quite a bit. Treatments for depression target the same area of ​​the brain that targeted that experience.

“We’ve developed a hypothesis that this energy may not directly affect the neurons in the brain, but actually affects the brain’s blood vessels,” Bickson said.

They headed to an MRI machine, where they set up Bellini to capture what the stimulation inside his head was doing.

The red areas showed an increase in blood flow. But how this might affect people with depression and other neurological diseases remains a medical mystery.

Bexon: It works, but it also works on the most difficult of people, the ones that conventional medicines have failed to do.

Bellini: But not everyone?

Bexon: But not everyone. And then, there is a chance, right? Just like with medications, with neuromodulation, you’re thinking, “How can I improve this work? How can I catch people who haven’t responded? And even for people who have responded, can I do better for them?”

Today, another method of stimulation, called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, or repetitive TMS, is FDA approved and widely available. But it requires a series of sessions over days or weeks. Larger studies are needed to determine how long improvements may take.

“I’m very interested in creating something as effective as this,” Bickson said. “But you can use it at home without a prescription.”

NYU uses a device developed in partnership with Bickson that can be positioned properly remotely.

Bellini: Haven’t you done this long enough to know how long it will last?

LEIGH CHARVET: No… we know that more is better. We don’t know if you have reached remission or if you have had remission of depression. Do you need to continue or do you need to scale back?

Meiklejohn has been using it daily, while meditating, for over three months.

Bellini: When did you start noticing changes?

Micklegon: I will say in about three weeks.

Bellini: Did the suicidal ideation go away?

Micklegon: Not quite no. You know, when I dip, I dip. …the difference is that I bounce back in a day or two.

Michelegon hopes it will continue to be an image of hope.

Newsy Mental Health Initiative “America’s Collapse: Confronting Our Mental Health Crisis” brings you deep and thoughtful personal stories about the state of mental health care in the United States Click over here To learn more.

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