Neurostimulation: A New Type Of Treatment For Depression

Depression is a growing problem and one of the most important public health issues today. The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing containment measures have had an impact on the mental health of many people across the country.

Unfortunately, front-line treatments for depression, such as psychotherapy and medication, remain ineffective for a large portion of patients receiving care.

However, a new type of treatment is promising Neurostimulation. Here, a technician in a clinic directs a magnetic coil and delivers a few hundred electromagnetic pulses to a specific area of the brain. Treatments are painless, involve no surgery or significant side- effects, and take less than an hour a day. The results are impressive. But is this to good to be true?

Using mathematics and the power of numerical computation, it is possible to better understand not only how the brain works at the cellular level but also how its vast network is organized and what may be lacking because in presence of diseases, such as depression. This can help identify new avenues for treatment and test their effectiveness through simulations. It’s a huge task that a team of researchers around the world are working on.

THE RETURN OF NEURON STIMULATION

During the past decade, medical treatments involving neurostimulation, or cerebral electromagnetic stimulation, have resurfaced in neuroscience and psychiatry.

After the murky days of electroconvulsive therapy and other techniques, which had a rather bad press, electrical or magnetic stimulation of neurons is attempting a comeback, using a much more sophisticated approach and much lower electrical currents. As a result, neurostimulation is becoming increasingly important in the treatment of depression, and its effectiveness seems to surpass that of medication in many patients.

Methods such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) are safe and painless alternatives to traditional pharmacological treatments. In addition, they have virtually no side-effects and offer new insights into the manipulation and control of cognitive processes.

Recent meta-analyses have identified positive and lasting effects of TMS neurostimulation treatments on patients with depression, some of whom experienced benefits up to one year after treatment.

PROVEN TREATMENTS

These treatments are now approved by many regulatory agencies and the clinical use of neurostimulation is on the rise in many countries.

However, a major challenge remains: how to control brain activity accurately. What areas and types of magnetic signals should be used to relieve patients’ symptoms? For despite amazing results and promising advances, the mechanisms of neurostimulation remain poorly understood. Why?

TMS uses a coil to create a magnetic field that induces electric currents in the brain. Neurons are cells that communicate by means of repeated electrochemical impulses; the brain is an organ with essentially electrical functions. Magnetic fields can, therefore, influence the dialogue between different areas of the brain and — in theory — restore or balance their function.

The brain, composed of billions of neurons with continuously changing dynamics, is an incredibly complex network. Neurostimulation, therefore, poses quite a problem for researchers and clinicians, such as where to stimulate and how. The problem is so great that many advances are being made empirically using the trial-and-error method.

A MATHEMATICAL CALCULATION

Mathematics is involved in this interdisciplinary adventure. What if, through mathematical models of brain circuits, we could understand how stimulation influences neurons and how its effects propagate?

By integrating brain imaging data such as magnetic resonance and electroencephalograms, mathematics can be used to create numerical simulations to better understand the influence of neurostimulation on neuronal activity. It’s a promising approach that could indeed allow us to unravel the mystery of considering the brain as a pendulum!

To better understand, let’s go back a bit.

The activity of neurons in the brain is far from being random and irregular. On the contrary, the neurons in certain parts of the brain coordinate their activity and react at the same time. They synchronize. This synchronization of the neurons in the brain appears in the magnifying glass of medical imaging as waves, or very characteristic oscillations, which are also called brain rhythms.

Brain activity oscillates like a pendulum and this constant to-and-fro movement allows us to see neuronal processes in action. Like ripples on a pond, brain rhythms are dynamic, changing according to our cognitive states. They will be different during a sustained mental effort, during physical activity, and during sleep or meditation.

HOPE FOR TACKLING NEURODEGENERATIVE DISEASES —

Researchers believe that brain waves are involved in the majority of brain processes. It is also these same rhythms that seem to be lacking in many neurodegenerative diseases. They are absent, too strong, or too slow.

What if we could control these rhythms with the help of neurostimulation? This is the emerging hypothesis put forward by some neurostimulation researchers. Using advanced mathematics and computer simulations, they want to understand how coordination between networked neurons can be influenced and to what extent electromagnetic stimulation can be used to control brain rhythms and to develop treatments for neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia and depression.

This research may lead to a better understanding of the role of these rhythms in brain function, the code used by neurons to communicate with each other, and a better understanding of what is lacking in certain diseases. It may also allow us to use neurostimulation to increase the computational capacity of these neural networks, thereby increasing cognitive abilities and creativity. Science fiction? Maybe … but not completely.

Integrative Medicine An Approach to Wellness

Do you have problems with attention and focus? You (and many traditional healthcare professionals) might assume you have ADD/ADHD, but these symptoms could stem from a variety of other causes, such as past head trauma, or even gut dysfunction.

Are you filled with sadness and fatigue? It could be due to depression, or it could be a sign of a hormonal imbalance.

Before you start taking Prozac or some other antidepressant, isn’t it better to find out if what you really need is progesterone? No one will ever have a Prozac deficiency, but you could definitely have a progesterone deficiency. Progesterone imbalances have been linked to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and balancing hormonal levels has been found to alleviate these symptoms.

Why would you ever want to take a medication or treatment you don’t need?

WHY MISDIAGNOSIS AND MISTREATMENT ARE SO PREVALENT IN TRADITIONAL MEDICINE
Unfortunately, most primary care physicians and traditional psychiatrists don’t look for the root causes that might be lurking behind your symptoms. Most healthcare professionals are likely to listen to you describe your symptoms—such as depression, anxiety, or brain fog— and then make a diagnosis and treatment recommendation based on what’s called “symptom clusters” without any further testing.

Because of this, you may be misdiagnosed or given the wrong treatment. Not only can make the wrong treatment make you feel worse, but it can also set you up for additional physical, mental, and brain health problems in the future. As you know, many medications come with a laundry list of side effects. They can make you even sicker and can steal your life.

INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE IS DIFFERENT
Integrative Medicine (also known as Metabolic or Functional Medicine) puts you at the center and addresses all the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual factors that can influence your health and sense of wellbeing.

Integrative Medicine is based on solid science. As science advances, so does Integrative Medicine with more sophisticated diagnostic testing, more effective therapies, and more powerful solutions. This ensures you’re being assessed based on the most cutting-edge scientific findings.

FINDING THE ROOT CAUSE
With comprehensive testing involved in Integrative Medicine, we can determine the root cause of your health problems. Common causes of symptoms that appear to be mental health issues on the surface can include:
• Blood flow problems
• Chronic inflammation
• Gut health issues
• Genetic predisposition for illness
• Head trauma
• Exposure to environmental toxins, such as toxic mold
• Overexposure to alcohol or drugs
• Immune system issues
• Infections, such as Lyme disease
• Neurohormonal imbalances
• Diabesity (blood sugar problems and overweight or obesity)
• Sleep problems

PERSONALIZED TREATMENT FOR LIFE
In keeping with our Integrative Medicine approach, you can optimize your physical health, mental health, and brain health. Personalized treatment plans can be created that addresses all of your needs by targeting and treating imbalances within the body and brain.

It’s important to understand that Integrative Medicine does not mean that only alternative therapies are used in place of conventional treatment. The use of all appropriate therapies, including medications (as needed), as well as a variety of other healing treatments to enhance the body and brain’s healing response are incorporated.

Effective Solutions Can Include:
• Nutritional supplements
• Bioidentical hormone replacement
• Brain health nutrition coaching
• Exercise
• Neurofeedback
• Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
• Psychotherapy
• Medications (when necessary)
• And more

WHO SHOULD GET AN INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE EVALUATION?
Integrative Medicine Evaluations are ideal for anyone who seeks a comprehensive, integrative approach to mental/physical health issues. People seek integrative medicine evaluations for a wide variety of concerns, including:

• Disease and symptom prevention
• Anti-aging
• Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
• Anxiety
• Depression
• Mood swings
• Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
• Focus and attention issues
• Hormonal imbalances
• Low libido
• Fatigue
• Gut issues
• Memory issues
• Lack of motivation