What is Neuromodulation Therapy and the Modalities Used

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It is estimated that over 20% of all US adults will experience a mood disorder at some time in their lives. Mood disorders can be difficult for patients to live with and challenging for physicians to treat. 

Unfortunately, standard treatments for mood disorders are ineffective for many patients, while others suffer from severe side effects. Due to these issues, many patients seek alternative therapies to address mood disorders. 

Neuromodulation therapy is emerging as a favored alternative treatment for those with mood disorders and even for major depression. It is defined as “the alteration of nerve activity through targeted delivery of a stimulus, such as electrical stimulation or chemical agents, to specific neurological sites in the body.” 

There are several types of neuromodulation therapy that can assist with the treatment of mood disorders.

  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS): TMS uses an electromagnetic device to deliver painless magnetic pulses. As a non-invasive treatment with no pain, TMS doesn’t require surgery or anesthesia. It can be used to treat depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

It is especially helpful for patients who have been diagnosed with a treatment-resistant mood disorder, as it can stimulate nerve cells in the region of the brain involved in mood control and activate areas, therefore increasing neuroplasticity. 

  • Vagus nerve stimulation: Vagal nerve stimulation uses a device connected to electrodes to deliver electrical signals throughout the nervous system. The pulse generator is connected under the skin of the chest and connects to the left vagus nerve. 

This modality can help with migraines, and it is also helpful for people who haven’t responded to intensive depression treatments, such as antidepressant medications and psychological counseling. Researchers are also looking at vagus nerve stimulation as a potential treatment for conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, bipolar disorder, obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease. 

  • Neurofeedback: Neurofeedback is a specific type of biofeedback that monitors central nervous system activity via the measurement and regulation of brainwave activity from electrodes placed on the scalp. Training with neurofeedback can help patients modify patterns of cortical activity, normalize brain activity, and increase patients’ coping skills. 
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): ECT is usually conducted while patients are under general anesthesia. Small currents are passed through the brain, triggering a brief seizure. The result of ECT can be changes in the brain chemistry that reverse the symptoms of certain mental health disorders. 

Clinical trials have repeatedly proven neuromodulation therapies provide patient benefits in treating various mood disorders. In addition, neuromodulation devices can stimulate a response where there was previously none, such as with cochlear implants that can restore hearing in deaf patients. 

Neuromodulation treatments can be a cost-effective way to manage mood disorders and reduce the number of harmful side effects from standard medications. Because of these benefits, neuromodulation is often considered when clinicians review treatment options, particularly with patients who do not respond positively to traditional treatments.

Neuromodulation therapy has tremendous potential to treat a variety of conditions without many of the side effects that come with traditional treatments. Patients looking for an alternative therapy to treat mood disorders may want to learn more about neuromodulation therapy and its benefits. 

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