More on electrical stimulation

An article in today’s New York Times reported on the efficacy of electrical brain stimulation for the treatment of depression. It described a study published last week in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, in which a commonly used antidepressant, sertraline (Zoloft) was compared with transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS. This blinded study showed that Zoloft and the electrical stimulation of the brain were equally effective, but the electrical stimulation lacked the side effects of the drug. Combining electrical stimulation with Zoloft produced even better results. This type of electrical stimulation is very safe and is somewhat similar to the transcutaneous electrical stimulation mentioned in my previous post. tDCS was also tried in patients with chronic migraines. A study published in Headache last year showed that pain intensity and migraine duration was reduced after 10 sessions of tDCS given over a period of 4 weeks. Even though the study involved only 13 patients, the active treatment was compared to sham stimulation, which makes the findings more likely to be true, rather than due to the placebo effect. It is too early to recommend tDCS for the treatment of chronic migraines. However, this is a very safe and inexpensive treatment that may be worth trying before other unproven, more expensive, and more invasive treatments, such as occipital or supraorbital nerve stimulation or migraine surgery.

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