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New ways to jump-start the brain

Created date

January 23rd, 2014

Brain stimulation is not a new concept. Electroconvulsive therapy, for instance, has been used since the 1940s and remains a widely accepted and effective treatment for major depression. 

In recent years, researchers have been working on new brain stimulation technologies that may someday be used for other health conditions. One is called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). It is an inexpensive, painless, and noninvasive procedure that uses electrodes placed on the head to deliver low intensity current to specific parts of the brain. Although not yet FDA-approved, tDCS studies suggest that it may be a valuable treatment for conditions such as depression, anxiety, Parkinson’s disease, and chronic pain.

Another therapy that is becoming more widely used is called deep brain stimulation (DBS). This technique is more complicated because it involves directly implanting electrodes in certain regions of the brain. DBS is currently FDA-approved for essential tremor, chronic obsessive-compulsive disorder, Parkinson’s disease, and some other conditions. In addition, preliminary research has shown that it may be an effective treatment for cognitive problems associated with Alzheimer’s disease.