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Clinical trial looks to ease depression symptoms in three minutes per day

Vancouver-based clinical trial testing rTMS therapy for mood disorders

Approximately eight per cent of Canadian adults will experience Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), a common psychiatric condition with numerous potential causes and effects on physical and brain function. Thirty to 40 per cent of those will have symptoms that do not respond to antidepressant medication.

Researchers at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health (DMCBH) are leading a clinical trial for an rTMS therapy they hope will alleviate the symptoms of MDD in as little as three minutes per day.

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) treatment involves stimulating certain areas of the brain with magnetic field pulses. It is an effective therapy for treatment-resistant Major Depressive Disorder, and was approved by Health Canada in 2002.

Over time, rTMS can change the activity level of the stimulated brain region and help alleviate symptoms of depression. However, current treatments are very time-consuming, with sessions lasting 40 minutes per day.

“We believe this study could have immediate, positive implications to clinical practice and the treatment of people who suffer with depression,” says Dr. Fidel Vila-Rodriguez, Clinical Assistant Professor and Director of the Schizophrenia Program in the Department of Psychiatry at UBC.

“We’re looking to make rTMS treatment more accessible and convenient.”

The Non-Invasive Neurostimulation Therapies (NINET) laboratory at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, in partnership with Toronto Western Hospital and Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, is investigating an rTMS treatment called Theta Burst Stimulation, and preliminary studies show that it is superior to placebo in treating depression.

The goal of this clinical trial, led by Dr. Vila-Rodriguez at NINET, is to compare the two different patterns of stimulation – the standard 40 minute stimulation, and the newer Theta Burst Stimulation, which takes just three minutes – to see if they have the same or different effectiveness at treating depression. The study is already seeing promising results.

“Participants enter the study with long-term depression, having taken many unsuccessful medications,” says Dr. Vila-Rodriguez. “They are looking for new treatment options, and we are excited that for many, these early results are promising. Participants are expressing optimism, and looking forward to what comes next.”

For more information on the clinical trial, visit the NINET website, or call 604-827-1361. The NINET Lab is also on Twitter.