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Study Finds Geriatric Depression Can Be Treated By Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

BOSTON – Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) can be a safe, effective nonpharmacological intervention that can treat older adults who suffer from geriatric depression even when they also have other chronic health conditions, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

This is a key finding of a recent Hebrew SeniorLife study entitled, “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Geriatric Depression” that was published in Ageing Research Reviews. Davide Cappon, M.S., Ph.D., Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research and a Neuropsychologist at the Deanna and Sidney Wolk Center for Memory Health at Hebrew SeniorLife, was the lead author of the study.

Depression is widespread among older adults, but it is not a normal part of the aging process. Depression is a treatable medical condition and treatment can be more challenging in older adults than in younger people because antidepressant drugs can mix with other medications, and antidepressants are less effective and more likely to have side effects in the elderly.

TMS is a form of non-invasive brain stimulation by which a brief magnetic field pulse passes through the scalp and induces an electrical current in the cerebral cortex that can modulate  brain activity in targeted brain networks and interactions between networks. In a systematic review of the evidence for TMS in treating geriatric depression, Dr. Cappon and his colleagues found that TMS treatment for geriatric depression is safe, well-tolerated, and shows encouraging efficacy outcomes. The study also found that TMS parameters adopted between different trials varied significantly and that TMS clinical efficacy for geriatric depression is highly variable between different trials.

Another key finding is that most of the reviewed studies significantly underdosed TMS for geriatric depression. It is important to optimize TMS treatment by considering the changes of the brain as patients age. Dr. Cappon said, “We recognized that properly dosing the TMS procedure for older adults is critical.”

The Wolk Center for Memory Health offers the only TMS program in New England that specializes in treating geriatric depression. The treatment is covered by most private insurance and Medicare. Call 617-363-8600 or contact us online to learn more.

About the Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research
Scientists at the Marcus Institute seek to transform the human experience of aging by conducting research that will ensure a life of health, dignity, and productivity into advanced age. The Marcus Institute carries out rigorous studies that discover the mechanisms of age-related disease and disability; lead to the prevention, treatment, and cure of disease; advance the standard of care for older people; and inform public decision-making.

About Hebrew SeniorLife
Hebrew SeniorLife, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, is a national senior services leader uniquely dedicated to rethinking, researching, and redefining the possibilities of aging. Hebrew SeniorLife cares for more than 3,000 seniors a day across six campuses throughout Greater Boston. Founded in 1903, Hebrew SeniorLife also conducts influential research into aging at the Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research and trains more than 1,000 geriatric care providers each year. For more information about Hebrew SeniorLife, visit https://www.hebrewseniorlife.org or ollow us on our blog, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.