What if zapping an electric current into ears could help patients with depression? A new study has revealed a gadget that stimulates the brain when anti-depressants don’t work.
The gadget, which can be used at home, works by transmitting mild currents through clips fixed to skin on the ears. This stimulates a nerve connected to an area of the brain that regulates mood, the Daily Mail reported.
Research shows that using the device for an hour a day can help patients who have not responded to anti-depressant drugs.
Experts at the China Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing studied 49 patients suffering from mild to moderate depression. The patients were taken off their anti-depressants two weeks before the test so as not to skew the findings. They were then given a hand-held device to send a mild current through clips attached to both ears twice a day for a month.
The results showed that zapping the vagus nerve significantly reduced patients’ scores on the Hamilton Rating Scale, a system used by psychiatrists to measure the severity of a patient’s depression.
The researchers said that they found this type of vagus nerve stimulation can significantly reduce the severity of depression in patients.
Psychiatrist Danny Smith of the Glasgow University said, “This looks potentially promising. It’s non-invasive and could benefit large numbers of people. But this is a small trial and more research will be needed.”
The study is published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.