There may be a new, non-pharmacological way to treat major mental health disorders like schizophrenia spectrum disorders and psychosis.
Researchers at The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research have received a $3.4 million (£2.7 million) grant from Wellcome to study repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and its effects.
Already approved by the FDA, rTMS is used to help treat people with depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Now, through Wellcome’s support, Feinstein Institutes will lead a new double-blind, randomised clinical trial that will study if rTMS improves social cognitive performance of people living with schizophrenia over the course of five years.
This is the first time the Feinstein Institutes received funding from Wellcome – a London-based charitable foundation which focuses on funding health research.
Study lead Anil Malhotra, MD, co-director and professor of the Feinstein Institutes’ Institute of Behavioral Science, said:
“There is no one silver bullet to treat mental health conditions.
“The success and effectiveness of rTMS have shown the potential to treat critical symptoms of schizophrenia.
“With the support of Wellcome, we will get a better understanding of the effectiveness of rTMS to help those with cognitive effects of illness.”
In rTMS, an electromagnetic coil is placed against a patient’s head.
The coil delivers repetitive magnetic pulses that stimulate nerve cells in the brain that influence mood and depression.
For effectiveness, the patient visits every day for several weeks.
Schizophrenia affects approximately 24 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Right now, there is no cure for the condition, but it can be managed with medications.
However, many people with schizophrenia are resistant to such treatments.
Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institutes and Karches Family Distinguished Chair in Medical Research, said:
“Research into cognitive mechanisms and disorders is a pivotal step towards improving outcomes in behavioral health.
“Through this Wellcome support, Dr. Malhotra and his team are now well positioned to discover new strategies for those patients in need.”
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