Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Experimental Form of Brain Stimulation May Improve Efficacy of Antidepressant Treatment

An experimental form of electrical brain stimulation, when used in combination with the antidepressant sertraline, appears to improve treatment response compared to sertraline alone. Further, use of the experimental treatment, known as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), alone had comparable efficacy to sertraline alone.

Those were the findings of a study by researchers in Sao Paulo, Brazil, published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. tDCS involves a low-level charge of about one-400th of that used in electroshock treatment and is given for 20 to 30 minutes continuously while patients are conscious.

Study subjects consisted of 120 antidepressant-free patients with moderate
to severe, nonpsychotic, unipolar major depressive disorder (MDD) and were randomized to receive tDCS and sertraline together, one of the two treatments alone, or a placebo and/or a sham treatment of tDCS. The primary outcome measure was the change in Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale score at 6 weeks.

The researchers found that there was a significant difference in scores when comparing the combined treatment group (sertraline/active tDCS) versus sertraline only. When comparing tDCS alone and sertraline alone, the scores were comparable though not statistically significant.

“In MDD, the combination of tDCS and sertraline increases the efficacy of each treatment,” the researchers state. “The efficacy and safety of tDCS and sertraline did not differ.”

An abstract of the study can be accessed here. For more information about electroconvulsive therapy, see Psychiatric News here.

(Image: Lightspring/shutterstock.com)


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