Published on March 22nd, 2018 | from CAMH

The power and promise of brain stimulation as a treatment for depression and dementia

By Sean O’Malley, Senior Media Relations Specialist and co-host of the CAMH Podcast

In the course of preparing for the latest CAMH podcast on brain stimulation, I learned something about my family history I did not know before.

It turns out that in the 1950s my grandmother on my mother’s side, who lived in a tiny farming community in southern Manitoba, underwent Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) to treat what the family believed to be manic depression.  She died when I was young so I did not know her well, but by all accounts, it helped her a great deal.

So much has changed in our understanding of the brain since then it is hard to know where to begin.  Our understanding of neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to change throughout our lifetime – was still in its infancy. The knowledge that the brain could generate new brain cells was not confirmed until 1998.

ECT has always been effective for treatment-resistant depression and remains one of the many brain stimulation options available at CAMH, along with magnetic seizure therapy (MST) and different types of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS).

In the latest edition of the CAMH podcast, co-host Senior Medical Advisor Dr. David Goldbloom and I convened a roundtable of three scientists on the leading edge of modern brain stimulation treatment and research:  Dr. Daniel Blumberger and Dr. Jeff Daskalakis, co-Directors of the Temerty Centre for Therapeutic Brain Intervention, and  Dr. Tarek Rajji, Chief of the Adult Neurodevelopment and Geriatric Psychiatry Division.

We discuss the origins of brain stimulation, which dates back to the 1930s, the current state of research into its use for treatment-resistant depression and dementia, and its promise for the future.


A feature interview with CAMH President and CEO Dr. Catherine Zahn.

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