16th Feb 2018

Brain stimulation for depression lifts fatigue in MS patients

16th Feb 2018

Curated by Endre Szvetnik

Fatigue weighs down multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, making it hard to socialise and keep up in jobs. Researchers discovered that a treatment for depression can significantly reduce tiredness.

In 10 seconds? Researchers have reduced fatigue in MS patients with a magnetic treatment for depression that sends electric currents deep into the brain to stimulate neuron activity. (Read the science here)


What’s the discovery? A brain stimulation technique for depression patients has been applied to MS sufferers to reduce severe fatigue. Scientists know that depression often accompanies MS, but haven't pinpointed any physiological causes yet. (Read more)

How does this technique work? Deep transcranial magnetic brain stimulation (dTMS) uses a bucket-like device placed over the head called a H-coil. Unlike older technologies that only reach the surface of the brain, the H-coil creates a precise magnetic field to stimulate neurons up to 5.5 cm inside the brain. (More on brain stimulation)

Sounds painful! Around a third of patients experience some discomfort on the scalp and face during the treatment, but this can be minimised immediately by adjusting the settings and placement of the magnetic device. When tested on MS patients, dTMS was reported to reduce tiredness by around 14% on the Fatigue Severity Scale. (More on the study)

What else is being tried to reduce fatigue? Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) seems to be the most effective in reducing severe fatigue, but only in the short term. Relaxation therapy, aerobic exercise and energy conservation programs have also been tried, but with less success. (More on CBT in MS)

So is there a strong link between fatigue and depression in MS? A Spanish study found that depression coupled with physical pain makes MS patients fatigued. Other studies also suggest that the more depressed a person feels, the more likely they will be fatigued. (Read more)

Is there anything that MS patients use at home? Some MS sufferers use self-management tools, like MS INFoRm, which has been shown to boost the quality of life for some. While there is still no fail-proof treatment yet, fighting fatigue is a good strategy to improve patients’ day-to-day lives.

How is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) applied to MS?

CBT is often used to treat psychological disorders, like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and phobias.

It aims to improve people’s moods, sense of self and even physical states through recognising and replacing negative thoughts with more positive ones.

In the context of MS, patients are encouraged to focus less on fatigue, change their beliefs about the disease, and regulate sleep and social activity to help with their pain.

Psst, Endre distilled 15 research papers to save you 611.3 minutes.

Curated by

Endre Szvetnik

Endre Szvetnik is Senior Editor at Sparrho. Endre works with Sparrho Heroes to curate, translate and disseminate scientific research to the wider public.

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