Scientists at Stanford University are touting a new method to treat depression by correcting the abnormal flow of brain signals.
The announcement comes as Gallup released a pollthis week that shows more Americans are experiencing depression. The Gallup poll indicated that 29% of Americans said they have been treated for depression in their lifetime. In 2015, 19.6% of Americans said they had been treated for depression.
Meanwhile, 17.8% said they are currently being treated for depression. In 2015, 10.5% of people said they had depression.
Stanford Medicine said the new treatment uses "powerful magnetic pulses" to the scalp to stimulate the brain to bring relief. The scientists said that this stimulation has worked on patients when standard treatments have failed.
This treatment is known as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and Stanford scientists say it changes the brain to "dissipate depression."
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"The leading hypothesis has been that TMS could change the flow of neural activity in the brain," said Anish Mitra, a postdoctoral fellow in psychiatry and behavioral sciences. "But to be honest, I was pretty skeptical. I wanted to test it."
A new study released this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed its results by incorporating advanced imaging technologies.
The study also found that backward streams of neural activity within the brain could be used as a biomarker to diagnose depression.
"This is the first time in psychiatry where this particular change in a biology — the flow of signals between these two brain regions — predicts the change in clinical symptoms," Nolan Williams, co-author of the study, said.
"When we get a person with severe depression, we can look for this biomarker to decide how likely they are to respond well," Mitra added.
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