Penn Researchers Investigate Potential New Treatment
Non-Medication Therapy Offers Alternative for Treatment-Resistant
(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
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 depression."
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 normal activities.
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 more information.
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 medication.
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.
Editor's Note: Neither Dr. O'Reardon, nor any member
of his immediate family, has a financial interest in Neuronetics, Inc.
PENN Medicine is a $2.7 billion enterprise dedicated
to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and
high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of
Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation’s
first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System
(created in 1993 as the nation’s first integrated academic health
Penn’s School of Medicine is ranked #3 in the nation for receipt
of NIH research funds; and ranked #4 in the nation in U.S. News &
World Report’s most recent ranking of top research-oriented medical
schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School
of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training
of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic
Penn Health System is comprised of: its flagship hospital, the Hospital
of the University of Pennsylvania, consistently rated one of the nation’s
“Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Pennsylvania
Hospital, the nation's first hospital; Presbyterian Medical Center; a
faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network; two multispecialty
satellite facilities; and home health care and hospice.