Brain Stimulation May Alleviate Anxiety, Depression

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Applying targeted electrical stimulation to a region of the brain may support cognitive retraining that can reduce anxiety and depression.

Patrick Clarke, PhD, of the University of Western Australia in Perth, and colleagues recruited 77 volunteers who received either active transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) of the left part of the brain’s prefrontal cortex or a sham stimulation as a control. They wanted to see if 20 minutes of stimulation could improve the effectiveness of a computer-based task designed to retrain unhelpful attention patterns that are known to contribute to high anxiety levels.

“It works by having people practice a simple task where they have to repeatedly ignore certain unhelpful information, such as angry faces, or negative words, that would normally grab their attention,” Clarke said, according to Medical Xpress.

Participants receiving active stimulation showed greater evidence of attentional bias acquisition in the targeted direction (toward or away from threat) compared with participants in the sham stimulation condition, the researchers reported in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

“There has been some research looking into tDCS as a stand-alone treatment for conditions such as depression, but our findings suggest that it might be best used in conjunction with specific cognitive training tasks, such as the one we used,” Clarke added.

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Brain Stimulation May Alleviate Anxiety, Depression

Researchers at The University of Western Australia have found that that brain stimulation may help retrain unhelpful cognitive habits associated with anxiety and depression. The paper was published today in the international journal Biological Psychiatry.

In collaboration with researchers at the University of Oxford, the study revealed that around 20 minutes of targeted electrical stimulation to a region of the frontal cortex could dramatically improve the effectiveness of a computer-based task designed to retrain unhelpful patterns of attention that are known to maintain high levels of anxiety.

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