Depression is a mental disorder that affects a person's ability to function normally. It causes fluctuations in mood and forces the individual into a feeling of severe sadness that can persist for long periods - typically, this interferes with their ability to function normally, and to work. The condition is treatable with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of the two.
The study, published in JAMA, tried to identify the effectiveness of two different treatment options. They found that electric stimulation is extremely effective in helping the initial phase of treatment when combined with the antidepressant.
A total of 120 patients with moderate to severe unipolar major depressive disorder participated in the double-blind trial.
The participants were divided into two groups: one on sertaline/placebo and the other on active/sham transcranial direct current stimulation. The trial lasted for 6 weeks. At the end, the researchers measured the overall change in depressive symptoms using a rating scale score.
Six weeks of daily electrical current therapy scored the same as six weeks on sertaline. However, when electrical current therapy and sertaline were combined, the scores were significantly greater - 8.5 points higher than the antidepressant alone and 5.9 points higher than direct current stimulation alone.
This finding has serious implications for future treatment of early stage major depressive disorder, showing great promise for combined treatment options as opposed to solely using antidepressants.
The authors wrote:
"Cost-effective alternative for regions with low resources where the prevalence of major depressive disorder is high, such as most developing nations. In MDD, the combination of tDCS and sertraline increases the efficacy of each treatment. The efficacy and safety of tDCS and sertraline did not differ,"
Electrical stimulation has been shown to have several benefits:Many studies over the last few years have shown that electrical stimulation can help people with different types of illnesses and conditions:
- Electrical stimulation helped a paraplegic man can stand up - Rob Summers, a victim of a hit-and-run vehicle accident, was able to stand up from a seated position unaided, and remain standing up unaided for up to four minutes, thanks to continual direct epidural electrical stimulation of his lower spinal cord.
- Electrical stimulation of the esophagus relieved reflux symptoms - at the 77th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology in Las Vegas, NV, researchers explained how electrical stimulation of a muscular valve in the esophagus showed promising results in relieving the symptoms of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux).
- Electrical stimulation for swallowing disorders after a stroke - dsyphagia, a swallowing disorder, is a common consequence after a stroke. Researchers found that transcranial direct current stimulation enhanced the outcome of swallowing therapy for dysphagia following a stroke.
- Electrical brain stimulation improved math skills - scientists found that they could improve a person's mathematical performance for up to six month by applying electrical brain stimulation. This was achieved without influencing other cognitive functions. The researchers believe this therapy could help an estimated 1 in every 5 people with moderate to severe numerical disabilities, as well as those who have lost their numerical skills following a stroke or degenerative disease.
- Electrical stimulation used for pain relief - researchers at Stanford University, California, USA, showed how low-level electrical stimulation of the brain has a significant pain-reducing effect in humans.