September 13, 2004
Penn Researchers Investigate
Potential New Treatment for Depression
Non-Medication Therapy Offers Alternative
for Treatment-Resistant Patients
(Philadelphia, PA) -- Statistics from the National
Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimate that 18.8
million Americans suffer from depressive illnesses each
year. Most are helped through the use of antidepressant
medication. But a growing number of patients -- estimated
to be between 10 and 15 percent -- remain chronically
depressed even after taking several different types
of antidepressants. For these patients, a new therapy,
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), can provide
a non-medication alternative treatment.
The Laboratory for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
at the University of Pennsylvania Health System
is one of 16 centers nationwide conducting clinical
trials to evaluate TMS as a potential treatment for
depression. In announcing the trial, John O'Reardon,
MD, principal investigator, said, "We
are excited to be participating in this landmark research
for a new antidepressant. If proven effective, TMS could
signal a radical shift in our approach to treating major
is a non-invasive procedure administered in an outpatient
setting, and requires no anesthesia. The patient is
fully awake and reclines in a chair throughout the 45-minute
session. (Click on thumbnail to view full-size image).
During the treatment, short pulses of magnetic energy
-- much like those used in magnetic resonance imaging
(MRI) technology -- stimulate the neurons in the left
prefrontal cortex of the brain -- the area that scientists
believe is involved in regulating mood. "The amount
of energy delivered to the brain is very small and very
focused," O'Reardon said. Both prior to and directly
after the procedure, the patient is able to carry on
TMS has been used for 20 years to study human nerve
fibers that carry information about movement from the
brain to the spinal cord and muscles. Currently, there
are over 2,000 TMS devices being used worldwide, to
investigate several neurological functions, including
attention, memory, movement, speech, and vision. TMS
is already used to treat patients with depression in
Canada and Israel, and smaller preliminary studies in
this country have encouraged researchers that TMS may
produce an antidepressant effect.
Volunteers interested in participating in the six-week
Penn TMS study are invited to call 1-800-345-8707 for
Participants must be:
- Between 18 and 70 years old.
- Suffering from a major depressive disorder.
- Able to provide written documentation that they
have been treated unsuccessfully with antidepressant
Please Note: Patients diagnosed with
bipolar illness (manic depression) or obsessive- compulsive
disorder are not eligible to participate in this trial.
The trial is sponsored by Neuronetics, Inc., a medical
device company focused on developing therapeutic products
for psychiatric and neurological disorders by using
the energy in magnetic fields.
a printer friendly version of this release,
Editor's Note: Neither Dr. O'Reardon,
nor any member of his immediate family, has a financial
interest in Neuronetics, Inc.
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