Depression affects 350 million people worldwide, with various options for treatment including medication, therapy, and a combination of both. There are countless drugs on the market today to treat this illness, as different patients respond differently to different formulas. Talk therapy has also been shown to help some patients, depending on the reasons for their depression. However, there are many patients who fail to improve on medication and/or therapy enough to feel a difference in their everyday lives. What does not help the fight against depression is that many large pharmaceutical companies are slowing efforts for new research and developing new drugs because they do not provide a profit. Fortunately, new research shows a promising form of therapy that involves sending signals directly into the brain to re-wire the connections. Studies are taking a closer look at the causes of different patients' depression, to determine whether it is caused by a shift in brain chemistry or brain circuits. In some cases, it seems that depression is not a single illness, but rather a group of disorders that work together to create a variety of depression symptoms. The new electrical treatment, "repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation" or rTMS, uses electro-magnetic induction to target areas of the brain known to regulate mood. The pulse is directed at certain neurons, stimulating them to fire. The treatment is approved in Britain and the United States, and has remarkable results of improvement. There are also electronic stimulation devices that can be implanted into the brain and remain there long-term. These devices were originally used for patients with Parkinson's tremors, but they have shown positive results for those with severe depression and bipolar disorder.
In addition to the new research and technology focusing on the way the brain is wired in people with depression, new research is clarifying the chemical make-up of patient's with depression. There are brain scans that can easily show whether a patient will respond better to medication or therapy. For instance, a scan of the "insula" part of the brain indicates that those with excess glucose will benefit from therapy, while those with less active insulas would improve with medication. By looking at each patient individually and identifying the "type" of depression from which they suffer, physicians will be able to pinpoint therapies that will work best for them and will allow a broader look at the area of mental health and possible solutions.
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