California doctors hope to 'rewire' depressed people's brains

Doctors at the University of California Los Angeles say magnetic stimulation can help 'rewire' the brains of people with depression.VIDEO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - Doctors in California say magnetic stimulation can help 'rewire' the brains of people with depression, offering hope for patients whose condition is not improved by medication or therapy.

Depression is one of the most common forms of mental illness, affecting more than 350 million people worldwide.

"I struggled with that for many years, didn't know really what to do, tried to pull myself through it. And then ultimately when I got into my forties, I wasn't successful." said Bob Holmes who suffers from depression.

Holmes has been receiving transcranial magnetic stimulation at the University of California Los Angeles, a treatment that beams targeted magnetic pulses deep inside his brain. Doctors say the therapy can effectively 'rewire' the brain by changing how brain circuits are arranged.

"By pulsing it with energy repeatedly, we're changing the way that area works but also changing the way the whole brain network works." said Andrew Leuchter, Director of the Semel Institute's TMS Clinical and Research Service at the University of California Los Angeles.

For Holmes, the treatment has been life changing.

"I would recommend it a hundred percent. I have spoken to a number of people who have depression, given them my opinion and I think it's a wonderful program. It's been a life-saver for me, and I'm very grateful that I found it, and I'm very grateful for the people here." said Holmes.

Doctors hope the newest generation of equipment could decrease the length of a treatment session from over 35 minutes down to three minutes, allowing a patient to complete a course in two weeks and bringing the therapy to even more people with depression.