A headset that zaps epilepsy and depression

Last Updated 23 September 2012, 16:37 IST

Researchers claim to have developed a small electrical headset that could help treat patients with major depression and severe epilepsy.

The device, known as ‘Monarch’, takes the form of two square, sticky pads attached to either side of the forehead, just above a major nerve in the brain.These pads are attached by wires to a small box the size of a mobile phone that sits at the waist, the Daily Mail reported.

The device, that works during sleep, generates a small electrical pulse that lasts 30 seconds and is followed 30 seconds later by another pulse.The pulses stimulate the trigeminal nerve and can reduce the number and severity of epileptic seizures as well as combating depression.

Studies have shown that a small number of severely epileptic patients who used the gadget for a year saw their number of seizures drop by an average of 60 per cent.
Meanwhile, tests on people with major depression saw their scores on the Beck Depression Inventory, a scale used to rank depression, improve significantly.
The procedure, called Trigeminal Nerve Stimulation, was created by a team of neurologists at the University of California.

The trigeminal nerve also called the fifth nerve, is responsible for sensation in the face and certain motor functions such as biting, chewing, and swallowing.

The device has been approved for use in Europe after pilot studies showed it could provide an additional treatment for patients with depression and epilepsy.
It would normally be used in conjunction with drugs to treat patients whose seizures cannot be controlled by medicine alone.

Experts are still not clear as to exactly why stimulating the trigeminal nerve reduces seizures and depression.

(Published 23 September 2012, 16:37 IST)

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