Last year, Neuronetics' NeuroStar TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) Therapy system became the first device of its kind to be cleared by the FDA for treating depression. Although, the similarity to a dentist chair was probably not a great idea.
Nonetheless, trials on 164 patients with unipolar, non-psychotic major depressive disorder using the device proved that treatment with short magnetic field pulses to the left prefrontal cortex can be a viable alternative to medication. After 30 40-minute daily sessions, half of the patients in the trial experienced significant improvement, while a third reported complete resolution. Plus, the only statistically significant side effect was mild discomfort in the treatment area. Currently, patients can receive NeuroStar treatments in a psychiatrist's office while remaining completely awake and alert.
Given all of the uncertainty and danger surrounding many psychiatric drugs, NeuroStar seems like it's worth a shot for people suffering from serious bouts of depression. It could also be a sign of things to come. Perhaps technology like this will one day be implanted directly into our brains—making us feel awesome all the time. [NeuroStar and Medical News Today via PopSci]