NewSci head electricity and ‘myth’ of mood drugs

newsci_20060415.jpgToday’s New Scientist has two articles of interest to mind and brain enthusiasts: a critical analysis of mood stablising drugs, and an account of a new brain intervention that involves passing a small electrical current through the head.

The article on mood stabilisers is largely an edited version of an article by psychiatrist David Healy published in a special issue of PLoS Medicine (mentioned previously on Mind Hacks).

The other feature article is on a technique called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), something I’ve not heard of before but which seems to have some serious research supporting its use.

It sounds like quackery, but it’s not. A growing body of evidence suggests that passing a small electric current through your head can have a profound effect on the way your brain works. Called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), the technique has already been shown to boost verbal and motor skills and to improve learning and memory in healthy people – making fully-functioning brains work even better. It is also showing promise as a therapy to cure migraine and speed recovery after a stroke, and may extract more from the withering brains of people with dementia. Some researchers think the technique will eventually yield a commercial device that healthy people could use to boost their brain function at the flick of a switch.

Unfortunately, the article isn’t available freely online, but you should be able to get the issue from your local newsagent or library.

Link to table of contents for this week’s issue.

One Comment

  1. Posted April 13, 2006 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    As someone with bipolar disorder who was treated for depression for many years, I think there does need to be more awareness of the disorder and that it is different from depression, which generally, our culture doesn’t get. Bipolar manias are acceptable, even desirable when they translate to workaholism and greater consumerist behavior and such. Depression seems unacceptable to a society where everyone is supposed to feel good all the time, it seems.
    Zyprexa is not, to me, a treatment for bipolar disorder. It is a treatment for manic brain activity. I take it occassionally, but rarely these days. Lamictal is my mood stabilizer of choice, since it keeps me level with zero side effects. It is a widely unrecognized treatment, and I initially had to talk my shrink into prescribing it, since at that time it wasn’t approved for bipolar.
    The real lack of awareness seems to be about what these drugs do and that they work differently for different people. And yes, some people do need life-long treatment, others short term treatment. We all seem to have different brain chemistry that responds differently.
    Awareness for different conditions is a good thing, pushing particular drugs and solutions is not. I think the whole system is out of whack, and until the drug companies are reined in a bit from these advertisements, they are creating more problems than they solve.


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