Nav: Home

Magnetic fields to alleviate anxiety

September 13, 2017

Nearly one in seven Germans suffer from an anxiety disorder. Some panic upon boarding an aircraft, others find it impossible to enter a room with a spider on the wall and again others prefer the staircase over the elevator - even to get to the tenth floor - because riding in elevators elevates their heart rate.

What sounds like funny anecdotes is often debilitating for the sufferers. Sometimes their anxiety can affect them to a point that they are unable to follow a normal daily routine. But help is available: "Cognitive behavioural therapy is an excellent treatment option," says Professor Martin J. Herrmann, a psychologist at the Center of Mental Health of the Würzburg University Hospital. This form of therapy deliberately exposes anxiety patients to the situations they feel threatened by - under the individual psychological supervision of an expert.

Brain stimulation improves response

However, current studies have shown that this type of intervention does not benefit all persons in equal measure. This is why Herrmann and researchers from the Department of Clinical Psychology of the University of Würzburg have been looking for ways to improve the patients' response to cognitive behavioural therapy - by using the so-called transcranial magnetic stimulation. In fact, a positive effect was found on the study participants treated with this method.

"We knew from previous studies that a specific region in the frontal lobe of the human brain is important for unlearning anxiety," Martin J. Herrmann explains the work of the Würzburg scientists. He goes on to say that initial studies have shown that magnetically stimulating this brain region can improve the effectiveness of unlearning anxiety responses in the laboratory. In its recently published study, the team investigated whether this also works for treating a fear of heights.

The study

To this end, 39 participants with a pronounced fear of heights were taken to dizzying heights during two sessions - however not in real life but using virtual reality. It does not matter that the environment is not real: "The people feel actual fear also in a virtual reality - although they know that they are not really in a dangerous situation," Herrmann explains.

The scientists stimulated the frontal lobe of some of the anxiety patients for about 20 minutes before entering the virtual world; the other group was only administered a pseudo stimulation. The result: "The findings demonstrate that all participants benefit considerably from the therapy in virtual reality and the positive effects of the intervention are still clearly visible even after three months," Herrmann explains. And what is more: By stimulating the frontal lobe, the therapy response is accelerated.

Next the researchers want to study whether this method is also suitable to treat other forms of anxiety by conducting a further virtual reality therapy study for arachnophobic patients.

The study was performed within the scope of Collaborative Research Center / Transregio 58 "Fear, Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders".

About transcranial magnetic stimulation

During transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a magnetic coil is placed near the head of the person receiving the treatment. The coil produces a rapidly changing magnetic field which sends magnetic pulses through the cranium into the brain. There it triggers an action potential in the neurons and the neuron transmits an impulse. Although the technique has been around for a few decades only, it is routinely used in research and diagnostics.
-end-


University of Würzburg

Related Mental Health Articles:

Food insecurity can affect your mental health
Food insecurity (FI) affects nearly 795 million people worldwide. Although a complex phenomenon encompassing food availability, affordability, utilization, and even the social norms that define acceptable ways to acquire food, FI can affect people's health beyond its impact on nutrition.
Climate change's toll on mental health
When people think about climate change, they probably think first about its effects on the environment, and possibly on their physical health.
Quantifying nature's mental health benefits
The BioScience Talks podcast features discussions of topical issues related to the biological sciences.
Sexism may be harmful to men's mental health
Men who see themselves as playboys or as having power over women are more likely to have psychological problems than men who conform less to traditionally masculine norms, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.
Mental health matters
UCSB researchers study the effectiveness of an innovative program designed to help youth learn about mental health.
Could mental math boost emotional health?
Engaging the brain's dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DL-PFC) while doing mental math may be connected with better emotional health, according to Duke researchers.
Program will train mental health providers, improve health care in rural Missouri
A new graduate education program at the University of Missouri has received nearly $700,000 from the Health Resources and Services Administration in the US Department of Health and Human Services to train psychology doctoral candidates in integrated, primary health care settings, in an effort to improve health care for underserved populations with mental health and physical disorders.
Loss of employer-based health insurance in early retirement affects mental, physical health
The loss of private health insurance from an employer can lead to poorer mental and physical health as older adults transition to early retirement, according to a study by Georgia State University.
Ocean views linked to better mental health
Here's another reason to start saving for that beach house: new research suggests that residents with a view of the water are less stressed.
New study shows electronic health records often capture incomplete mental health data
This study compares information available in a typical electronic health record (EHR) with data from insurance claims, focusing on diagnoses, visits, and hospital care for depression and bipolar disorder.

Related Mental Health Reading:

No One Cares About Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America
by Ron Powers (Author)

Mental Health: Personalities: Personality Disorders, Mental Disorders & Psychotic Disorders
by Carol Franklin (Author)

Varcarolis' Foundations of Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing: A Clinical Approach, 7e
by Margaret Jordan Halter PhD APRN (Author)

Better Days - A Mental Health Recovery Workbook
by Craig Lewis (Author)

Foundations of Mental Health Care, 6e
by Michelle Morrison-Valfre RN BSN MHS FNP (Author)

Essentials of Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing: A Communication Approach to Evidence-Based Care, 3e
by Elizabeth M. Varcarolis RN MA (Author)

Varcarolis' Foundations of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing: A Clinical Approach, 8e
by Margaret Jordan Halter PhD APRN (Author)

All the Things We Never Knew: Chasing the Chaos of Mental Illness
by Sheila Hamilton (Author)

Mental Health in Social Work: A Casebook on Diagnosis and Strengths Based Assessment (DSM 5 Update) (2nd Edition) (Advancing Core Competencies)
by Jacqueline Corcoran (Author), Joseph M. Walsh (Author)

Mental: Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind
by Jaime Lowe (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Why We Hate
From bullying to hate crimes, cruelty is all around us. So what makes us hate? And is it learned or innate? This hour, TED speakers explore the causes and consequences of hate — and how we can fight it. Guests include reformed white nationalist Christian Picciolini, CNN commentator Sally Kohn, podcast host Dylan Marron, and writer Anand Giridharadas.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#483 Wild Moms
This week we're talking about what it takes to be a mother in the wild, and how how human moms compare to other moms in the animal kingdom. We're spending an hour with Dr. Carin Bondar, prolific science communicator and author. We'll be discussing a myriad of stories from her latest book, "Wild Moms: Motherhood in the Animal Kingdom", covering the exciting, stressful and even sinister sides of motherhood.