Magnetic Pulse Treatment Targets Depression A woman named Georgia is one of hundreds who have agreed to test an experimental new treatment for depression. Transcranial magnetic stimulation sends a magnetic pulse to stimulate the brain.

Magnetic Pulse Treatment Targets Depression

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

INSKEEP: new treatments for depression. Up to one out of 10 people who suffer from depression are not helped by anti-depressant drugs or talk therapy. Researchers have been testing alternatives - not medicine, but medical devices that stimulate the brain. We have three reports. First, from Keith Seinfeld of member station KPLU in Seattle.

KEITH SEINFELD: A woman named Georgia is one of hundreds who signed up to test in the experimental new treatment. It's a magnetic pulse, which is directed at the brain.

GEORGIA: The first time I thought, ooh. I wonder if I should be doing this.

SEINFELD: The treatment's called Transcranial magnetic stimulation. Georgia battled severe depression for years. Her medication stopped working, and she was desperate. She's sitting in a reclining chair in a small room at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

DAVE AVERY: Unidentified Man: Nothing.

GEORGIA: No, that's fine.

SEINFELD: Dr. Dave Avery is the research psychiatrist who's in charge of the treatment.

AVERY: Okay. I'm going to ask that you not, not fall asleep.

SEINFELD: A small machine touches the side of her head.


AVERY: What you're hearing is the sound from the magnetic coil.

SEINFELD: What I'm wondering - what anyone would be wondering is what does it feel?

GEORGIA: Well, I can't feel anything in my brain. I feel like a, oh.


SEINFELD: Georgia gropes for the right word. She says there's no pain at all. It's kind of like an electronic woodpecker.

GEORGIA: It's just like chi-chi-chi-chi-chi-chi. It's a sense of electricity, but that's it.

SEINFELD: The magnetic pulse creates an electrical current about the same strength as what's normal in a brain cell that's firing. For Georgia, a few weeks of daily treatments made all the difference.

GEORGIA: I just felt good. You know, I felt like I had energy. I felt like my whole attitude shifted. It was an attitude shift, definitely.

SEINFELD: For NPR News, I'm Keith Seinfeld in Seattle.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.