Posted on Feb 03, 2019, 8 p.m.
Hundreds of vets are trying an experimental treatment at the Newport Brain Research Laboratory that may change how mental disorders are addressed.
A new treatment for brain disorders may change brain based medicine, FDA clinical trials to judge its efficacy and risks are still ongoing, but the technique may help humanity deal with mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, attention deficit, aggressiveness and others without the use of drugs. If underpinning theories are correct it may be among the biggest breakthroughs in mental health since invention of the EEG.
Newport Brain Research Laboratory is innovating Magnetic EEG/ECG guided Resonant Therapy. An electroencephalography cap is placed on a subject skull to measure baseline electrical activity, then a flashlight sized device is placed by the skull to induce an electromagnetic field that sends small burst of current to the brain. Over a 20 minute period the device is moved around the cranium delivering small jolts, which at the most strongest are said to feel like firm finger tapping, in sessions which are about an hour long, five days a week, for four weeks.
After the first session effects may be immediate and obvious such as boosted energy, better moods, ability to cope, and improved sleep; experiences have been similar in those who have taken part in the double blind randomized clinical trial seeking to determine how well Mert could treat PTSD and Persistent Post-Concussion Symptoms.
Dr. Erik Won has treated more than 650 veterans with Mert, who’s lab is working through a double blind clinical trial that may lead to FDA approval; a separate randomized trial involving 86 veterans was also conducted in which after two weeks 40% saw improved changes in symptoms, and after 4 weeks that increased to 60%.
The idea of electricity when properly administered treating illness is not new, it dates back to 1743 when Johann Gottlob Kruger treated a harpsichordist with arthritis with electrical stimulation to the hand. This idea has remained idle with no real science to back it until Hans Berger applied a galvanometer to the skull of a young brain surgery patient in 1924 to test his theory of human being capable of telepathy. Berger discovered the brain produced electrical oscillations at varying strengths and named the graphing of these waves an EEG; while his theory never worked out, the EEG went on to become a healthcare staple.
Invention of SCT in 1930 used electricity to induce seizure in a patient, which spread across psychiatry to meliorate depression and temporarily pacify patients and “cure” homosexuality; eventually this practice became associated with institutional cruelty.
During the 1990s electricity at much lower voltages was realized to be of benefit to help with motor function in Parkinson’s patients and as an aid for depression. The difference of this ECT treatment is the use of magnetic fields rather than jolts of electricity which allowed them to activate brain regions without sending high currents through the skull and seizures weren’t necessary.
Researchers began to experiment with transcranial magnetic stimulation to treat PTSD in 2008 which has been approved to treat depression since then. Dr. Won does not use this same method, rather they use EEG/ECG biometrics to find subject baseline frequency to return them to and precisely target areas of the brain that respond to stimulation in the right manner.
No two individuals will experience any mental health disorder in the same way; some with PTSD suffer with memory issue, some have depression, and others have uncontrollable rage and anger. People diagnosed with depression are more likely to suffer from another separate mental health issue such as attention deficit, anxiety, or something else.
MeRT posits that many of these issues share a common origin of the brain losing beat of its natural information processing rhythm/dominant frequency, which is how many times per second the brain pulses alpha waves. Every person in born with a signature which all have pros and cons: slower thinkers may be more creative, fast thinkers may be better athletes, and SEALs tend to have higher than average dominant frequencies. Emotional and physical trauma can disrupt this and cause the back and front of the brain to emit electricity at different rates resulting in lopsided brain activity; MeRT seeks to detect arrhythmia, which regions are causing it, and nudge the off kilter ones back into beat.
Should theories of MeRT be true it may explain, at least partially, why people suffer from many mental health symptoms. Pharma treats symptoms with separate drugs, but they all may have a similar cause which may be treatable with one treatment, and Won’s preliminary results are suggesting just that.
If clinical trials work out and the FDA approves MeRT to treat concussion and/or PTSD more people will try it and the dataset will grow helping to further its science; in the near future the world may know whether or not there is a better therapeutic for mood and sleep disorders than drugs.
Won also believes this therapy can have uses for healthy brains such as improving memory, attention, and reaction time, although performance enhancement is not the main goal, it may be an added benefit. There is evidence of this working, complex cognitive processing tasks can improve in terms of speed to the number if times a subject is correct. But this will need to be quantified and measured with good science, however signs of that future are there.
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