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Magnetic Fields To Alleviate Anxiety

Last updated Sept. 18, 2017

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

It is possible to unlearn fears. And this works even better when a specific region of the brain has previously been stimulated magnetically.


It is possible to unlearn fears. And this works even better when a specific region of the brain has previously been stimulated magnetically. This has been shown by researchers from the Würzburg University Hospital in a new study.

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.

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.


Materials provided by Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, JMUNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Disclaimer: DoveMed is not responsible for the accuracy of the adapted version of news releases posted to DoveMed by contributing universities and institutions.

References:

Martin J. Herrmann, Andrea Katzorke, Yasmin Busch, Daniel Gromer, Thomas Polak, Paul Pauli, Jürgen Deckert. (2017). Medial prefrontal cortex stimulation accelerates therapy response of exposure therapy in acrophobiaBrain Stimulation, 2017. DOI: 10.1016/j.brs.2016.11.007

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Sept. 18, 2017
Last updated: Sept. 18, 2017