Finding Depression

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation can target the half of your brain that's healthy and relieve symptoms of depression.

By Laurie Budgar, published on August 2, 2002 - last reviewed on August 17, 2007

Of the 19 chromosomal regions now known to influence depression,
only three are found in both genders, according to researchers at the
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "Sex-specific genes for
recurrent major depression may actually be the rule rather than the
exception," says George S. Zubenko, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry at
the university. Scientists knew that genetics accounted for 40 to 70
percent of the risk for developing major depression but could not
heretofore confirm that the disease is sex-specific, despite symptomatic
gender differences. Women report accompanying anxiety and eating
disorders, while men tend to exhibit anti-social behavior and
substance-abuse problems.

Another study maintains that depression can be treated or
exacerbated by electromagnetic stimulation, depending on the individual.
In the dual-brain theory of Fredric Schiffer, M.D., an associate
professor of psychiatry at Harvard, one hemisphere hosts a healthy
worldview, while the other retains past emotions and trauma that may
cause depression. Schiffer found that he could determine the "healthy"
hemisphere by covering half the subject's field of vision and asking
emotionally charged questions. "Patients experienced amazing personality
changes," says Schiffer. "After stimulating one side, they were very
negative and immature; after stimulating the other, very

Schiffer and Alvaro Pascual-Leone, M.D., of Beth Israel Deaconess
Medical Center in Boston, maintain that depressed patients with healthy
left hemispheres are most likely to benefit from this treatment, known as
transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Schiffer assumed that
stimulating the healthy hemisphere would improve mood. So Pascal-Leone
applied TMS to the healthy left hemispheres of 20 clinically depressed
subjects. Two weeks later, their symptoms decreased by 42 percent; a
50-percent reduction in symptoms signifies remission. Fifteen patients
with healthier right hemispheres actually felt worse after