depression research

There are a lot of different ways that depression can be treated, but currently, depression cannot be cured. Since depression is prevalent among millions of people, striving to attain better treatment and ultimately a cure should be a priority. However, it is not all bleak. Despite the stigmas and taboo that still surround depression, in modern times there are methods, practices and treatments for minimizing symptoms and reducing the influence of depression in people. Some of these practices could also behold the key to new breakthroughs in the science and research that goes into treating depression.  

Brain Stimulation

One of these treatment methods is called brain stimulation. This kind of treatment has doctors using electricity, magnets, or other methods in order to stimulate the brain in specific ways to help with the way it can create chemical imbalances. In the field of brain stimulation, a new breakthrough has occurred at Stanford University. In a small study conducted at the college, researchers found a new brain stimulation method that helped rapidly relieve symptoms of severe depression in 90 percent of participants. They are currently conducting a more extensive study. They hope that the same kind of efficiency can be found with a broader demographic. This larger study also focuses on those who have not found success with medication, talk therapy, or other forms of treatment. 


The name of the treatment is called Stanford Accelerated Intelligent Neuromodulation Therapy, or S.A.I.N.T. The therapy is a form of transcranial magnetic stimulation, approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a treatment of depression. The researchers say that the treatment improves on FDA-approved protocols by increasing the number of magnetic pulses. It also speeds up the pace of the therapy and explicitly targets the pulses based on the subject’s neurocircuitry. 

Before the therapy began, several diagnostic tests for depression were used to find that all 21 participants were severely depressed. After the therapy, 19 of the participants were found to be non-depressive. While all participants were said to have suicidal thoughts before the treatment, none of them reported having any suicidal thoughts afterward. None of the participants had reported having had success with medication, FDA-approved transcranial magnetic stimulation, or electroconvulsive therapy. The only side effects that were reported by the participants were fatigue and some discomfort during the treatment. Nolan Williams, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and a senior author of the study, reported that “There’s never been a therapy for treatment-resistant depression that’s broken 55% remission rates in open-label testing… Electroconvulsive therapy is thought to be the gold standard, but it has only an average 48% remission rate in treatment-resistant depression. No one expected these kinds of results.”

What Does the Future Hold?

Researchers believe that targeted brain stimulation will more accurately improve the treatment’s effectiveness even more. In the process of transcranial magnetic stimulation, the procedure is aimed at the location where most people’s dorsolateral prefrontal cortex lies. This is a brain region that regulates executive functions, such as selecting memories and stopping inappropriate responses. 

For the purposes of the S.A.I.N.T. study, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging of brain activity to locate not just the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, but also a specific sub-region in it. The subregion they targeted has a connection with the subgenual cingulate, a part of the brain that is overactive in people experiencing depression. For people who are feeling depressed, the relationship between the two regions is weak. Stimulating the subregion of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex reduces activity in the subgenual cingulate. They also report that a month after therapy, 60 percent of participants were still in remission for depression. There are follow-up studies to find out the duration of the treatment effects. There are also plans to use this kind of treatment and evaluate its effectiveness on other disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, addiction, and autism spectrum disorders.

Promising Future

These are promising developments and give a lot of hope to people who struggle with severe depression every day. It can be hard to manage the symptoms of depression when they are so debilitating to your ability to function on a daily basis. Trying to keep your symptoms in a manageable place is a part of your life once diagnosed. 

Having a treatment showing such promising results is a good sign that there can be further progress made in the treatment of depression and possibly other conditions. Of course, additional research needs to be conducted in order to provide more concrete answers. This will take the testing of a larger group of participants. Regardless, there is so much progress and possibility ahead–it is an exciting time. 

The world of mental health is always changing, always evolving, and new steps are being taken every day. Eventually, treatment can be such an easy thing that you don’t even have to think about it. You can manage your depressive symptoms in a much more natural, healthier way. Ultimately, coping is getting a lot easier, and treatment can only keep improving from here. Just a few decades ago, depression meant spending the rest of your life locked in an asylum. Now, there are various treatment options available with more being researched and discovered every day. What all forms of treatment for depression have in common, however, is that first step: asking for help. If you struggle with depression, call True Recovery. Our program includes top-notch professionals, from 24/7 staff to trained therapists, to make sure your mental health recovery gets the best treatment possible. If you need help for your mental health issues, give us a call at (866) 399-6528.