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Mental Health in the News: November 25, 2022

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Mental Health in the News

Welcome to Madison Avenue TMS & Psychiatry’s Mental health in the News weekly update. Below are some current news events relating to mental health and mental health treatments.

New Study Finds Neurostimulation Technology Improves Memory in Older Adults

In a study published in Nature Neuroscience, Boston University researchers found that using electrostimulation on the brain modestly improved the short-term memory of people aged 65 and older. 

How Neurostimulation Affects the Brain

In the past, the brain was thought to be fixed and unalterable. Today, scientists know that the brain is malleable and able to change–a concept known as plasticity. Based on this idea of brain plasticity, researchers are exploring the benefits and effects of neurostimulation on the brain. 

One method of neurostimulation uses a device called transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS). tACS sends electrical waves through electrodes attached to the patient’s scalp in hopes of stimulating, promoting growth, or enhancing the neural connections in the brain. 

An alternate method of neurostimulation, known as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), uses magnetic fields in lieu of electrical currents. Since 2008, TMS has been FDA-approved to treat depression. 

The Study

The Boston University experiment involved three groups of participants aged 65 and older.  One group of participants received a treatment of gamma waves, another group received a treatment of theta waves, and the last group received a sham treatment. 

Over the course of four days, participants took five 20-word recall tests during stimulation treatment. At the end of the treatment, participants were asked to recall as many words as they could. 

The results were that the participants who received the gamma rays improved their ability to remember the words at the beginning of the test, while those who received the theta waves could better recall words at the end of the test.

While more research is warranted, doctors say that the results indicate that stimulating the brain using electrical currents could improve people’s memories. Neuroscientist, and professor at Harvard, Rudy Tanzi, who was not a part of the study, said, “This preliminary but promising finding warrants more exploration of the use of bioelectronic approaches for disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.”

To read the original news article, click here

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Study Shows rTMS Improves Excessive Daytime Sleepiness in Parkinson’s Disease

According to a new study published in Sleep Medicine, researchers found that repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) was effective in reducing symptoms of excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) in patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD). rTMS is a painless non-invasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to reduce symptoms of various conditions and disorders.

The study involved 25 patients who were randomly assigned to receive either an active or sham (placebo) rTMS for 10 days. Researchers targeted the rTMS over the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC)–the area of the brain that regulates mood and sleep and is also associated with depression. All participants completed the study and no one reported any adverse effects. The researchers used the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) to measure the success of rTMS in improving symptoms of EDS. 

The results of the study demonstrated that after 10 days of rTMS, patients in the active group saw a reduction of 15.65% on the ESS, while those in the sham group showed no significant improvement. When researchers followed up 30 days later, participants who received active TMS were still reporting low scores on the ESS as well as improvements in motor and nonmotor symptoms.

On a deeper analysis of the results, researchers noted that the patients who responded to the rTMS treatments had experienced Parkison’s disease longer and also were taking a lower amount of levodopa equivalent dose (LED)–medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease. 

According to the researchers: “the improvement of symptoms of EDS may be associated with longer duration of disease and less LED, but independent of mood.” Researchers believe that, while these results shed light on the use of TMS for Parkinson’s disease, further studies with larger sample sizes and more detailed evaluation criteria are needed in order to validate the results from this preliminary study. 

To read the original news article, click here.

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Doctors Discuss the Efficacy of Different Medication Treatment Options for ADHD in Adults

Medication treatment for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) falls into two categories: stimulants and non-stimulants. In an episode of Around the Practice produced by Psychiatric Times, Stephen Faraone, PhD; Theresa Cerulli, MD; Craig Chepke MD, FAPA; and Andrew J. Cutler, MD sit down to discuss the efficacy of prescription stimulants and non-stimulant medications for adults diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Prescription Stimulants

Within the category of prescription stimulants are amphetamines and methylphenidates. Prescription stimulants are highly effective at treating a variety of symptoms. Amphetamines and methylphenidates work differently in the body and some patients do better on one or the other. Dr. Cutler advises clinicians to try both before giving up on the treatment. 

Stimulants can further be divided into different categories, based on whether they are short-acting (have immediate effects) or long-acting (release over time). Physicians and patients can experiment with both short and long-acting stimulants in order to find the treatment that works best for them.

While stimulants have high efficacy, they come with some warnings and concerns around safety and tolerability. Many stimulants can cause side effects that include insomnia, irritability, worsening psychiatric disorders, cardiovascular risks, or producing mania. An important issue with stimulants is that they are considered to be controlled substances and have the potential to be abused or misused. 

Prescription Non-Stimulants 

Prescription non-stimulants include alpha 2 agonists and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors. While both of these non-stimulants are used to treat ADHD in kids, only 2 norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are approved to treat adults. Alpha 2 agonists and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors can be highly effective for some patients; however, they are not effective for everyone. Unlike stimulants, non-stimulants are not considered to be controlled substances and they do not come with the same risks. Side effects associated with non-stimulants include high blood pressure, mania, suicidal thoughts, and extreme sleepiness. 

To read the original news article, click here.

Dr. Woo has been seeing patients in private practice since 2002, always with the goals of combining evidence-based medicine with psychodynamic psychotherapy and collaborating with other mental health professionals to ensure the best possible outcomes for his patients. He has been certified to administer TMS at his practice since 2017. His greatest clinical interests include helping patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

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