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Rewiring the brain to treat depression

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

Each year American's spend billions on antidepressants, but studies show they can be ineffective in up to 40 percent of all patients. Bob Holmes was one of them.

Bob Holmes says "They tried to adjust my medication, but the medication had side effects that weren't desirable."

Holmes is among the 16-million people in the U.S. who suffer major depressive episodes each year. That number increased 18-percent over the last decade, which is why some doctors are taking a different approach.

Doctors are beaming magnetic pulses deep inside patients' brains to change the way depression symptoms are perceived.

Dr. Andrew Leuchter, UCLA Health says, "We are used to thinking of the brain as a chemical organ, but, it's also an electrical organ."

Dr. Ian Cook, UCLA Medical says, "It's called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or T-M-S. It's currently F-D-A approved only to treat depression, but doctors say it may prove helpful in a wide range of conditions, by rewiring a network of signals in the brain."

Doctors tell us that T-M-S can feel a bit uncomfortable at first, but many patients quickly get used to it and report substantial relief from their symptoms of depression within a few weeks.

Dr. Leuchter says, "What TMS is doing is changing how the network functions, really rebooting the network to improve symptoms of mood, anxiety, and chronic pain."

Which may be why many patients treated for depression also say it helps relieve their pain. Raising provocative questions about whether T-M-S could one day become a viable alternative to opioids.

Dr. Ian Cook says, "This is really a transformative kind of therapy, but in medicine there's always the wish to do better, to help more people than what we do now."

But for now, it's made a dramatic difference in Bob's depression.

Bob Holmes says, "It provided that kind of jolt to get my brain to start work again, normally."

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