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U-M Studies Alternative Depression Treatment

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Following the unexpected passing of Robin Williams in an apparent suicide, the national conversation has turned to depression and how to treat the debilitating affliction. 

The University of Michigan has started studying an alternative treatment that has had some promising results. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS, therapy uses powerful electro-magnets to treat patients when anti-depressants and other forms of medication don't work.

The study's lead researcher Dr. Stephan Taylor says they know the treatment works, but the scientific community currently doesn't know why or what exactly it does to the brain.

"It's thought that by improving how we target, that is where we put the magnet, where we stimulate, by improving how we do that, we'll make the treatment more effective," Taylor says.  "There's some evidence of that, but we're trying to gather more information about how the brain changes and how those changes lead to resolution of depressive symptoms."

Taylor says TMS currently only works on about half of patients who use it.

Taylor Pinson is a WEMU news reporter and engineer during WEMU's broadcast of NPR's All Things Considered.
Taylor Pinson is a WEMU news reporter and engineer during WEMU's broadcast of NPR's All Things Considered.