Magnetic therapy is being embraced by a large population of the world, especially in Japan. In most of these instances, permanent magnets are used. There, little if any, clinical verification of the efficacy of these therapies. What had been found useful was the use of electromagnets for treating specific illnesses. One of them is depression.
Electromagnetic brain stimulation of varying types has been used with success in the treatment of depression. Previous research has shown that cranioelectrical stimulation using electrodes on both sides of the scalp were a safe and effective treatment for depression, and raised serotonin levels just like Prozac, but did it quicker and without any side effects.
A new form of electronic stimulation for depression called RTMS (repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation) is receiving increased interest from scientists for the treatment of depression. RTMS uses a hand-held device aimed at a specific area of the brain shown to have an energy disturbance. Using this technique, the therapist can focus or aim the electromagnetic energy and the stimulation at precise points on the brain. It uses a hand-held device. It has been found to be extremely effective in depressed patients who were resistant to drug treatment. It is safe and painless, producing quick results in patients resistant to drug therapy.
Studies at NIMH/NIH
Magnetic stimulation of the brain's left prefrontal cortex may help some depressed patients in much the same way as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), but without its side effects, suggested a preliminary study by Mark George, M.D., of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Eric Wassermann, M.D., National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), and NIH colleagues.
They found that two of six medication-resistant patients showed marked mood improvement after treatment with repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) over several days. One of the two responders, a middle-aged woman, reported feeling well for the first time in three years. Two other patients experienced slight mood improvement and two no improvement following the experimental procedure, which employs an electromagnetic coil that induces a current in the brain's cortex.
Unlike electricity, which gets diffused by the skull, high intensity magnetic pulses pass readily through bone, making possible more focused targeting of particular brain structures. The NIMH investigators aimed the magnet at the brain's left prefrontal cortex, since it has been implicated as a site of abnormally low metabolism in studies of depression. PET (positron emission tomography) scans performed in one patient during and after treatment showed widespread increases in metabolism, hinting that the magnet's effects may be broadly telegraphed via interconnected brain circuitry, suggests Dr. George.
Studies at Menninger Clinic
Tibetan monks use magnets to relieve depression. There are numerous anecdotal reports about the therapeutic benefits of magnets and lodestones to relieve depression.
In an attempt to verify the claims of the Tibetan monks, a carefully designed double-blind study was carried out at the Menninger Clinic. Meditation activities were conducted either with a magnet suspended over the head, oriented either north-up or south- up, or absent. The effects were evaluated with a questionnaire that assessed five categories: physical, emotional, mental, extra- personal (psychic), and transpersonal (spiritual). The results were surprising, especially with respect to what it showed with respect to gender differences. When the field was north-up, male subjects tended to be physically and emotionally energized, and females tended to be physically and emotionally inhibited. When the field was south-up, however, the reverse was found.
Proponents of magnetic therapy claim that it is able to treat the source of disease, rather than only the symptoms.
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