When electricity and the brain are mentioned in the same sentence, your mind might immediately jump to disturbing images of people receiving huge shocks while covered in electrodes, strapped to tables.
But electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatment has developed considerably since the days depicted in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” A current study at JAMA Psychiatry examines a treatment called transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS).
Could this fairly new form of electrical treatment for depression really be effective — and without the negative side effects of ECT?
This new treatment, which involves stimulating the brain with a weak electrical current, is starting to be considered as an alternative — and potentially effective — treatment for depression. tDCS, unlike traditional ECT, passes only a weak electrical current into the front of the brain through electrodes on the scalp.
Patients receive the treatment once a day for 30 minutes and remain awake and alert during the entire procedure.
Depression in adulthood remains a common and often under-treated condition.
Depression can occur at any age, but it typically emerges in the mid-20s. Women experience depression twice as frequently as men, and symptoms can vary from mild to severe. Major depressive disorder, which may be diagnosed when depressive symptoms last for 2 weeks or more, is understood to occur in 15 to 17 percent of the population.
Symptoms of major depressive disorder can include a depressed mood, loss of interest and enjoyment, reduced energy, increased fatigue, diminished activity and reduced concentration and attention.
These and other symptoms, particularly when prolonged, impair a person’s ability to function in day-to-day life, making effective treatment essential.