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Wanted: Volunteers to try new depression treatment (The Straits Times, 27 December 2014, Pg B6)

27 Dec 2014

[The Straits Times] (C) Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.

VOLUNTEERS are wanted to test out a new depression treatment, which involves passing a weak electric current through the brain.

The treatment – known as transcranial direct current stimulation – is still in the clinical trial phase and not yet available to the public. However, at least four overseas studies have shown it to be effective in treating the disorder.

“There are patients who don’t do well on current anti-depressants, or even psychotherapy,” said Dr Johnson Fam of the National University Hospital’s (NUH) psychological medicine department. “We are exploring this as a safe alternative.”

Doctors hope to recruit at least 20 people for the trial, which is a collaboration between NUH and the Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

Currently, the treatment of last resort for patients with depression is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which induces seizures to try and treat the patient.

While the new method being studied also involves electricity, doctors say it is more targeted than conventional ECT.

“It’s highly tolerable and done when the patient is alert – it doesn’t require patients to go under general anaesthesia,” said Dr Chan Herng Nieng of SGH’s psychiatry department. “We also use an electric current that is very small in relation to what is used in ECT.”

In ECT, a current of about 800 milliamps is passed through the patient’s brain. The treatment under trial uses between one milliamp and three milliamps.

“There is a tingling sensation when it’s administered, but it’s not painful,” said Dr Chan, who has tried it out himself.

Volunteers will have to sit through 30-minute sessions of having their brains stimulated with the current every day on weekdays. Doctors expect the whole course of treatment to last between 20 and 30 days.
Those interested in signing up should have been diagnosed with clinical depression and be between 21 and 65 years old.
They may call 6323-7501 or e-mail imu@singhealth.com.sg if they have further questions. 

Read the original article here

Email: linettel@sph.com.sg Linette Lai

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Last Modified Date :30 Dec 2014