Scientists have come up with a new way to beat depression -- they say stimulating the brain with a weak electrical current can effectively treat the condition which could also benefit the body and mind.
A team, led by the University of New South Wales, says that it found up to half of depressed participants experienced substantial improvements after receiving the treatment in their research, the 'British Journal of Psychiatry' reported.
A non-invasive form of brain stimulation, tDCS passes a weak depolarising electrical current into the front of the brain through electrodes on the scalp. Patients remain awake and alert during the procedure.
"We are excited about these results. This is the largest randomised controlled trial of transcranial direct current stimulation ever undertaken and, while the results need to be replicated, they confirm previous reports of significant antidepressant effects," said team leader Prof Colleen Loo.
In their experiment, the scientists analysed 64 depressed participants who had not benefited from at least two other depression treatments receive active or sham tDCS for 20 minutes every day for up to six weeks.
"Most of the people who went into this trial had tried at least two other antidepressant treatments and got nowhere. So the results are far more significant than they might initially appear -- we weren't dealing with people who were easy to treat," Prof Loo said.
Significantly, results after six weeks were better than at three weeks, suggesting the treatment is best applied over an extended period. Participants who improved during the trial were offered follow up weekly 'booster' treatments, with about 85% showing no relapse after three months.
"These results demonstrate that multiple tDCS sessions are safe and not associated with any adverse cognitive outcomes over time," Prof Loo said in a release.