Next-Generation Psych Treatments

An article published yesterday in Technology Review discusses two new technologies being developed to improve psychiatric treatment.

The first, from Norwood, MA-based Aspect Medical Systems, is a device that predicts whether an antidepressant is taking effect, after just one week. Typically, patients have to wait several weeks or months for psych meds to start working. But previous research has shown that despite this delay in patient response, brain-activity — measured via electroencephalogram (EEG) — can happen after a week.

Aspect’s device, which requires only five electrodes to be placed on the patient’s head, incorporates EEG technology. It’s currently undergoing trials and so far producing positive results: At the American Psychiatric Association meeting held last week in San Diego, Aspect reported that 70-80% of the time, after one week of treatment, the device could predict if the drug would work in the longer term.

A technology not mentioned in the Review article, but one that also focuses on determining patients’ response to medications, is Referenced EEG, or rEEG, by CNS Response. With rEEG, though, the response analysis starts before the patient pops a single pill.

The technology utilizes EEG in conjunction with a normative database and a clinical (symptomatic) database to identify abnormal patient physiology. Appropriate medications are then statistically selected specifically to normalize discovered abnormalities. The process has been correlated to treatment outcomes in a database of over 1,600 patients and 10,000 medication trials. The results of the analysis for each patient are produced in a two-page report provided to the physician.

CNS Response reports that rEEG has led to positive outcomes in approximately 80% of 2000+ patients who had previously failed to respond to traditional treatment.

The other device highlighted by Technology Review is Neuronetics‘ NeuroStar, which delivers short magnetic pulses to the brain to activate cells in the targeted area. The device, designed to treat patients who are unresponsive to drugs, showed positive outcomes in a trial that concluded last year, and is now being reviewed by FDA.

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