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New therapy treats depression with magnetic stimulation

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WESTPORT, Conn. -

It’s a new treatment that is showing success – battling depression with magnetic pulses to the brain.

It has nothing to do with any types of shock treatments. The machine actually uses MRI technology.

For one young woman in particular, it gave her relief from depression and anxiety.

"I was taking a lot of medications,” said Katy Messervey, 27. “I have anxiety and depression and it was being well managed and suffering some side effects."

Messervey wanted off of the prescription medications she was taking but her anxiety was too much for her.

She was being treated by psychiatrist Dr. Serena-Lynn Brown. Brown convinced her to try a totally different kind of treatment – transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, that gives a warning chime, then sends a pulsed magnetic field to a part of the brain.

"As much as I could handle the anxiety and it didn't really affect me doing anything it was a nuisance and it was very bothersome."

Brown, who has spent years prescribing anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, has known about TMS therapy since it became FDA approved in 2008.

She said it stimulates nerves in the prefrontal cortex of the brain – bringing back activity to the area and relieving depression.

"The prefrontal cortex has been implicated in depression but what's more important to me is it's got direct connections to the limbic system which for many years has been highly implicated in depression, anxiety, mood dysregulation," Brown said.

Brown, who has done research in serotonin and neurotransmitters, is impressed with how she is now able to get patients completely off medication.

"Some are fine - we stay in touch with them - some need once a month treatment of TMS, and some need a low level of medication, so it's individual so those people are all doing much better than they did with medication alone," she said.

Messervey said it doesn’t hurt. She needed several 37-minute treatments over six weeks.

It’s covered by some insurance companies, and Brown said she advocates for her patients with other companies.


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