Rapid mood-elevating effects of low field magnetic stimulation in depression

Biol Psychiatry. 2014 Aug 1;76(3):186-93. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.10.024. Epub 2013 Nov 12.


Background: We previously reported rapid mood elevation following an experimental magnetic resonance imaging procedure in depressed patients with bipolar disorder (BPD). This prompted the design, construction, and testing of a portable electromagnetic device that reproduces only the rapidly oscillating (1 kHz, <1 V/m) electromagnetic field of the experimental procedure, called low field magnetic stimulation (LFMS).

Methods: We used a randomized, double blind, sham controlled treatment protocol to study the effects of LFMS in a large group of stably medicated, depressed patients with either BPD (n = 41) or major depressive disorder (n = 22). Subjects received a single, 20-minute treatment. Change in mood was assessed immediately afterward using a visual analog scale (VAS), the 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS-17), and the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule scales.

Results: Substantial improvement (>10% of baseline) in mood was observed following LFMS treatment relative to sham treatment for both diagnostic subgroups for our primary outcomes, the VAS and the HDRS-17. These differences were not statistically significant in primary analyses stratifying by diagnosis but were significant in secondary analyses combining data across the two diagnostic groups (p = .01 VAS, p = .02 HDRS-17). Rapid improvement in mood was also observed using the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule scales as secondary measures (positive affect scale p = .02 BPD, p = .002 combined group). A finite element method calculation indicates a broad penetration of the LFMS electric field throughout the cerebral cortex.

Conclusions: Low field magnetic stimulation may produce rapid changes in mood using a previously unexplored range of electromagnetic fields.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00578383.

Keywords: Bipolar depression; depression; electromagnetic field; field; rapid antidepressant; therapy.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Bipolar Disorder / therapy*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Electromagnetic Fields
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Field Therapy / instrumentation*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00578383