Magnetic stimulation shown to alleviate PTSD

Health Scan: Haifa University psychologists find that parents' stress can impair future offspring.

brain skull skeleton health 248 88 (photo credit:
brain skull skeleton health 248 88
(photo credit:
Psychological counseling and medications have been most commonly given to victims of posttraumatic stress disorder who experience a traumatic event. But now, magnetic stimulation of the brain has been found in preliminary trials at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem to alleviate PTSD.
The hospital’s psychiatry department teamed up with Jerusalem’s Brainsway company, which initiated and funded the study of deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (DTMS).
The painless, non-invasive treatment is also being used against bipolar (manicdepressive) disorder and other psychiatric problems. According to Hadassah, results of the DTMS treatment show so far that it is effective and safe in treating PTSD, whose symptoms include reliving the event, thus disturbing daily routines; repeated nightmares; strong, uncomfortable reactions to situations that remind victims of trauma of the event; emotional “numbing”; a feeling of detachment and lacking a future; avoiding places, people or thoughts that remind them of the event; difficulty concentrating; irritability; and sleep problems, among others. The magnetic signals cause electrical changes that “wake up” brain neurons, the psychiatrists explain.
According to surveys, seven percent of the general population in Israel suffers from PTSD – an accumulation of suffering resulting from the Holocaust through terror attacks, road accidents, wars and other events.
The technique has been used for about a decade on people with depression, but the Brainsway device allowed stimulation of larger and deeper sections of the cerebral cortex.
“The technique deals with the needs of people suffering from serious or resistant aspects of the syndrome,” explained Hadassah’s Dr. Moshe Isserles, who heads the team. “The problem is that for a significant number of sufferers, medications and psychological care aren’t effective enough, and many symptoms remain.
Thirty patients volunteered to take part and were divided into three groups: The first received DTMS after a short recall of the traumatic event; the second received the magnetic treatment without recalling the event; and a third received a placebo treatment without magnets. after recalled the trauma.
Data on 26 patients who received at least eight treatments each were analyzed according to the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale. An objective analysis showed that the first group improved significantly, with less improvement in the second group. The benefits continued from the beginning of treatment until it ended, and the improvement remained so two months after that. In the patients who received a placebo, there was no decline in symptoms.
Isserles explained that the number of nightmares, flashbacks, overstimulation and avoidance declined significantly, while moods and functions improved.
“This was the first study of its type in DTMS; very few studies on the effects of magnetic signals have included not only the stimulation but also recollection of the trauma,” he said.
“Many studies identified reduced brain activity in a certain region of frontal cerebra; cortex and increased activity in the amygdala (responsible, among other things, for reactions to fear). Using DTMS can help reduce exaggerated fears that are the basis for PTSD,” concluded Isserles, who will expand the clinical work.
Adversity and enrichment at a young age can influence the next generation, according to psychologists at the University of Haifa.
Prof. Micah Leshem headed the team along with Prof. Jay Schulkin of Georgetown University and postgraduate students Hiba Zaidan and Neta Kvetniy- Ferdman, They published their findings recently in the journal Developmental Psychobiology.
The lab study found that stress experienced by young female rats can impair their future offspring, but can also improve resilience. It also found that providing the young stressed females with an enriched environment (often used to model therapy), can indeed relieve some of the effects.
“The similarities between rats and humans raise the question of whether similar effects might transpire in humans; for example, exposure to war or natural disasters might have heritable effects,” explained Leshem.
Rats exposed to stress during early development inherit the effects of that stress to their offspring, largely expressed in behavior impairments but also characteristics of resilience. Providing environmental enrichment to the future mother rats had a remedial role on some of the negative effects. The team set out to examine the cross-generational effects of early exposure to stress and enrichment.
The researchers examined rats because of their resemblance to humans and their rapid rate of development and reproduction, which facilitates crossgenerational studies.
They worked on 40 female rats weaned when they were 27 days old. One group of these females – the control group – was then raised normally in individual cages; the second group was exposed to different stressors; the third was enriched; and the fourth group was both stressed and enriched.
The matured rats were mated at 60 days, had normal pregnancies and births, and their offspring pups were divided into two groups – one raised normally and the other raised in an enriched environment, so that the effect of “therapy” on the next generation could also be evaluated. The offspring groups were then evaluated with respect to social interaction, anxiety levels, ability to learn and capacity to cope with fear.
The study’s main findings showed that the early treatment of the mothers impacted their offspring behavior. Stress to the mothers reduced social interaction in their offspring, but improved their ability to learn to avoid distress. Male offspring were also better at coping with fear. Some of these changes were mitigated by enrichment to the mothers, so that stressing the mothers and then providing them with a “therapeutic” (enriched) environment, prevented some, but not all, of the effects in the next generation.
Providing enrichment to the offspring also offset some of the inherited effects.
According to the researchers, their study “suggests that evolution equipped the parent generation to sample its environment, and then, possibly via heritable epigenetic changes, to prepare the next generation to better cope with this environment,” Leshem explained.
“It is important to investigate whether stressful experiences at a young age affect the next generation and whether therapeutic experiences can minimize the trans-generational effects in humans too.
As our study shows that the inheritance of the effects of adversity can be modified by timely intervention, this may have important educational and therapeutic implications,” he concluded.