Thursday, August 13, 2015

Flipping the Switch

Last week I met with Dr. Irving Reti to talk about brain stimulation as a psychiatric treatment.  Irving is the editor of a new book, Brain Stimulation: Methodologies and Interventions and he happens to be a stimulating guy to chat with.   He divides his brain stimulation into 'convulsive' -- that would be ECT or electroconvulsive therapy -- and 'nonconvulsive' : transcranial magnetic stimulation, transcranial direct-current stimulation or tDCS, and deep brain stimulation).  I wrote about our conversation over on the Clinical Psychiatry News website and please do click over to "Catching up on brain stimulation with Dr. Irving Reti".  I was particularly interested in tDCS which Irving likened to hooking yourself up to a 9-volt battery and he mentioned that the machinery -- not intended to treat psychiatric conditions -- is readily available at  He also recommended a very interesting New Yorker article, Electrified, by Elif Batuman, which talks about an anesthesiologist in Georgia who uses tDCS to treat patients, and himself, for depression .

So with electricity on my mind (not literally, or at least not yet), today I noticed an article on The Carlat Psychiatry Report talking about the use of both transcranial direct and alternating currents

for the treatment of depression, and in "Fisher Wallace and Alpha-stim for Depression," Gregory Sahlman and Jeffery Borckardt talk about the differences between sending direct versus alternating current through the brain and the evidence for both of them.  Apparently the alternating-current device (made by Fisher Wallace) can also be self-administered, and costs a bit more. Stimulating stuff, be the bottom line is that there hasn't been enough controlled research to know if all this electricity works.

And by all means, if you have your own stimulating stories to share, please post them in the comment section below.