Faced with depression, could transcranial stimulation be the solution? Our psychiatrist answers

Faced with depression, could transcranial stimulation be the solution?  Our psychiatrist answers

To help patients suffering from mental health disorders, particularly depression, research is closely studying transcranial magnetic stimulation. What does this technique consist of? Could it help other patients, such as those affected by attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity or those suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorders? Dr Joachim Müllner, psychiatrist member of the TipsForWomens expert committee, enlightens us.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, medicine has given greater importance to mental health issues, particularly depression. Research focuses, among other things, on transcranial magnetic stimulation as a treatment.

What is transcranial magnetic stimulation?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a non-invasive technique whose principle is to modulate the electrical activity of neurons in the cerebral cortex through electrical impulses produced from magnetic coils placed on the scalp. first defines Dr Joachim Müllner, psychiatrist member of the TipsForWomens expert committee.

It is performed with the patient awake, seated in a chair. Sessions generally take place once a day for several consecutive weeks. The diffused magnetic field activates the nerve cells of the brain and gradually modifies the activity of the brain circuits, disrupted in depression.

What are the advantages of this technique?

Among the recognized advantages is the few side effects of this technique. “Lr-TMS for “repeated transcranial magnetic stimulation” has the advantage of having few adverse effects and that these are temporary (rare headaches, fatigue or even slight drowsiness after a session). It also has few contraindications, these being mainly linked to the magnetic effect which must not alter the proper functioning of a possible cochlear implant or even a pacemaker, or to the electrical effect which is contraindicated in epilepsy for example” confirm Dr Müllner.

What pathologies can be treated with transcranial magnetic stimulation?

Research is exploring the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation to treat many other conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), chronic pain and even dementia. , in order to slow the progression of symptoms.

What is it really? According to our expert psychiatrist, “r-TMS is currently mainly used in the treatment of depression and has also shown its effectiveness in the treatment of neuropathic pain as well as in post-stroke motor rehabilitation. Its effectiveness is also mentioned, but remains to be confirmed, in the treatment of symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, certain symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorders, in attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, or even in the treatment of chronic pain”.

On the other hand, according to the results of a HAS study carried out in 2022, rTMS would be ineffective in the treatment of so-called “resistant” major depressive episode, i.e. “having resisted two lines of antidepressants previously” further specifies Joachim Müllner, adding that “this study remains criticized and debated today, with many centers seeing clinical effectiveness in the treatment of resistant depression as well.“.

Are the effects of this therapy lasting over time?

This question is precisely one of the areas of research in the various studies. It would seem that for depressed patients who have responded well to treatment, sessions not daily, but more spaced apart, would be just as effective. Preliminary results, which need to be consolidated by other studies.

For Dr. Müllner, “given these numerous avenues of beneficial effects and the few side effects observed, compared to medicinal treatments for example, it therefore seems clear that this therapy should be much more accessible on French territory“. And to conclude that it seems important that “the scientific community is producing more studies in order to precisely examine its effectiveness and its place in the therapeutic algorithm“.