An alternate treatment for depression

An alternate treatment for depression

University of Waterloo engineers work with local company to improve a system that treats patients suffering from a host of health problems, including depression and pain
September 9, 2014

Waterloo, Ont.-based NeuHorizon Medical, a company that specializes in developing treatments for neurological diseases, is working with experts at the University of Waterloo’s Centre for Intelligent Antenna and Radio Systems (CIARS) to improve a therapy for health problems ranging from depression and addiction to epilepsy and pain.

Last year, approximately 2.2 million Canadians aged 12 and older were diagnosed with mood disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety or mania, and many suffer recurring episodes throughout their lives. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), which uses rapidly changing electromagnetic fields to send weak signals to small targeted regions of the brain, is currently used in many research hospitals around the world and has shown positive results in treating some of these illnesses, and in curbing their recurrence. Because rTMS is non-invasive and has no long-term side effects, it is often used as an alternative to pharmaceutical treatments.

Safieddin Safavi-Naeini is a researcher at CIARS, a multifaceted facility that works with industry partners on a variety of projects ranging from new health treatments to the next generation of wireless technologies. With expertise in electromagnetic communications research, his team was able to help NeuHorizon improve the rTMS system. The new rTMS design, called the iTMS (for integrated transcranial magnetic stimulation), is equipped with a stronger electromagnetic pulse which reduces the treatment time from the conventional six to nine weeks, to two weeks. It also has a built-in precision tracking device that better targets the part of the brain that requires treatment, making the overall procedure more comfortable.

NeuHorizon plans to test their prototype over the next four to six months and hopes to be ready to market the device within a year.