A HEAD­BAND TO TREAT DE­PRES­SION?

Focus-Science and Technology - - Innovations -

A South Korean bio­med­i­cal start-up called Ybrain has de­vel­oped a head­band that they claim will of­fer re­lief from the symp­toms of de­pres­sion. The de­vice, called Mindd, works us­ing a tech­nique called tran­scra­nial di­rectcur­rent stim­u­la­tion (tDCS). Here, a low­volt­age elec­tri­cal cur­rent is ap­plied to spe­cific ar­eas in the brain via elec­trodes placed on the skull.

tDCS is not new – the ba­sic prin­ci­ples have been un­der­stood since the early 19th Cen­tury. But the past decade or so has seen in­creased in­ter­est in its use in treat­ing neu­ro­log­i­cal and psy­chi­atric con­di­tions, and a 2016 meta-anal­y­sis of hun­dreds of stud­ies con­cluded that it’s “pos­si­ble or prob­a­bly ef­fec­tive” as a treat­ment for de­pres­sion.

tDCS equip­ment can stim­u­late par­tic­u­lar brain re­gions ei­ther ‘an­odally’ (in­creas­ing neu­ronal ac­tiv­ity) or ‘catho­dally’ (de­creas­ing neu­ronal ac­tiv­ity). The Mindd head­set ap­plies an­odal stim­u­la­tion via elec­trodes in the head­band to the frontal lobe, an area where de­creased ac­tiv­ity is as­so­ci­ated with de­pres­sive dis­or­ders. Mindd is not in­tended as a DIY so­lu­tion: pa­tients would use it in their own homes, and all data re­gard­ing treat­ment would be sent au­to­mat­i­cally to their doc­tor.

The head­band is cur­rently un­der­go­ing clin­i­cal tri­als at Har­vard Med­i­cal School, and at 12 hos­pi­tals in South Korea. Early re­sults are said to be promis­ing, and if all goes well Ybrain hopes to mar­ket the de­vice to health providers by 2019.

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