I found this, hope it helps also. *www.webmd.com*
Recently a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, has provoked a lot of interest. With TMS, an electrical coil is placed on the patient's scalp, producing a strong magnetic field. This in turn causes an electrical current to flow in the brain. But -- unlike the conventional use of electricity to shock the brain directly -- no seizure occurs with TMS; no anesthesia is necessary and the patient is fully awake during the procedure.
So far TMS has been used mainly in patients who have failed conventional treatment. TMS seems to be safe and well tolerated in depressed patients, and doesn't produce memory problems. Sounds good so far -- but does it work? Initial studies, most done without a "control group," look positive. A review in the February 15, 1999 issue of Biological Psychiatry concluded that TMS is a promising new research tool, but stopped short of declaring it an effective treatment for depression.
Unfortunately, a June 28, 1996 article in the Journal of Biological Chemistry described a controlled study that found that, among depressed patients who were resistant to treatment, TMS was no more effective than a "sham" treatment. As the authors of the 1999 review put it, "It is still too early to know whether we are at the threshold of a new era" in the treatment of depression.
In the meantime, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) remains the gold standard of treatment for severe and life-threatening cases of major depression. ECT uses a tiny amount of electrical current to produce a very brief seizure while the patient is asleep under general anesthesia. Despite Hollywood convention, modern ECT doesn't cause a visible convulsion (though it did in the early days of its use) because the patient's muscles are completely relaxed by a special medication. The seizure occurs only in the brain, and lasts about 30 seconds. It?s not clear precisely how ECT works, but it almost certainly changes the levels of several chemicals in the brain that govern mood.
According to Charles Kellner and colleagues at the Medical University of South Carolina, ECT is effective in up to 90% of severely depressed patients -- a better track record than any antidepressant. ECT is usually used when medication isn?t working, or when the patient refuses to take anything by mouth. An ECT treatment carries about the same risk as that of any operation requiring general anesthesia, such as having your tonsils out. For some patients, ECT may be done once or twice a month on an outpatient basis, once the initial bout of depression has subsided.
But doesn?t ECT cause brain damage or memory problems? There is no credible evidence that ECT damages the brain. In fact, memory often improves after ECT, probably because depression was interfering with the patient's thinking in the first place. In a 1989 study published in the journal Convulsive Therapy, 86% of elderly depressed patients showed improved mood after ECT. While 21% exhibited some worsening of their mental function, 49% actually showed improvement in their memory.
However, ECT can cause temporary problems with short-term memory, usually for a few weeks. The patient may say, "I don' t remember what the nurse said to me before the treatment," or have trouble recalling a family visit during the course of treatment. Some patients have trouble learning new material while undergoing treatment and for three or four weeks afterward. While annoying, these memory problems normally go away. Research reported in the July 1991 American Journal of Psychology showed that most memory problems disappear within three months of ECT treatment. Kellner and his colleagues even found that ECT is safe for pregnant women and their developing fetuses, sparing the baby the potentially dangerous side effects of antidepressant medication.