New non-invasive treatment for depression has patients "feeling normal again"

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) has been used to treat depression at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for less than a year - with good success already seen in more than half of patients.

Brenda Griffith is feeling happy again.

"I'm more open to people," she said on Wednesday. "Sometimes they're not happy with how open I am with them," she added, with a laugh and a smile.

For more than 25 years, those were sights and sounds few and far between in Brenda's life. She battled depression for much of her adult life - taking various medications for five years, then spending another 15 undergoing shock therapy. The latter led to some memory loss.

"The shock treatments were able to get me by," Brenda said, "but the TMS made me start feeling normal again."

TMS is transcranial magnetic stimulation - a treatment method less than a year old at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

"It tends to be used exclusively for people who have tried medications and failed," Dr. Aaron Boes said on Wednesday. His specialties are psychiatry and neurology.

TMS treatments are composed of 40-minute sessions Monday through Friday for 4-6 weeks. During the session, a magnetic field is sent through a device that is positioned above the left frontal lobe of the brain.

"It's about a 40-minute treatment session - and it's every day during the week - Monday through Friday - and it lasts 4-6 weeks."

"(That) region...has lower activity in patients with depression," Dr. Boes said, "and when we're stimulating it every day of the week for 4-6 weeks, it actually increases the level of activity and normalizes it."

Dr. Boes says about 30 patients have been treated with TMS for their depression at UIHC over the past year - with more than half finding success with it.

"They often feel like they've been given their life back," he said, "and it's really gratifying to see that."

For Brenda, a mother of three and grandmother of five, she's beginning to enjoy the little things again.

"Just talking to my family and friends and being able to open up to them," she responded when asked what her favorite thing about her post-treatment life has been.

"I'm happy that I fought all those years."

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