A new Innovation Fund Denmark project will determine the exact points in the brain where magnetic stimulation will have the greatest treatment effect on the individual patient suffering from depression. photo Jesper Scheel

Magnetic stimulation for depression

Health technology
Advanced software and magnetic stimulation of the brain aims to help patients suffering from depression.

Up to 20 per cent of the Danish population experiences depression once in their lifetime. Everyone who has suffered from depression knows how debilitating the disease can be. One particularly difficult problem is that about every fourth patient becomes treatment-resistant. This means that all medication, psychotherapy, or other treatment trials prove unsuccessful to this group.

But now researchers from the Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance (DRCMR) at Hvidovre Hospital and DTU Health Tech together with international partners will work to develop a treatment method specifically aimed at these patients. The method is even expected to have far fewer side effects than existing medications.

The idea is to stimulate the brain with magnetism tailored to the individual patient.

“DRCMR will develop methods that use magnetic resonance imaging to determine which area of the brain that provides the best treatment effect for the patient. And DTU will develop a user-friendly and fast method to determine the optimum position of the magnetic stimulation transducer to reach this area and control the stimulation dose,” says Axel Thielscher, who is both senior researcher at DRCMR and associate professor at DTU Health Tech.

The project has just received a grant of DKK 14.2 million from Innovation Fund Denmark’s Grand Solution programme. The potential is not just great for patients and relatives—but for the whole of society, as depression annually costs the Treasury over DKK 10 billion—among other things in sickness benefits and pensions.

“I’m pleased with Innovation Fund Denmark’s seal of approval which means that we can now move the research to the next level and enable individualized brain stimulation with high precision, so that it benefits the individual patient as much as possible,” says Axel Thielscher.