Feeling depressed or judging experience as “depressing” are universes away from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). Most people can shake off minor depression, but patients who suffer from MDD don’t have a choice. Someone with MDD can’t just “get it together and snap out of it,” because there are deeper neurological and neurochemical factors at play. When someone feels significantly depressed for two weeks or more, that’s the cutoff that determines if medical help is needed, according to the CDC. Finding the proper medication and dosage can be a long, drawn-out process of trial-and-error. We’ve written about a variety of technologies to detect and treat depression, including using online feedback to support depression therapy and wearables that detect depression and other health risks.
Flow Neuroscience.com has developed Flow, a medication-free treatment for MDD using Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS): in short, brain stimulation. Flow consists of a medical grade headset and a smartphone app. The app helps patients change negative behavior patterns and routines that often occur with depression. The headset stimulates the frontal regions of the brain to correct an imbalance in activity between the left and right frontal hemispheres. According to Flow, people with more left hemisphere activity tend to have more positive feelings, so that’s where the stimulation occurs. Science used to believe that brain cells and connections could not heal or regrow once they were damaged or dead. Today, scientists widely accept the concept of neuroplasticity: the ability of the brain to re-organize and form new connections when stimulated.
Treatments with Flow include 25-minute daily sessions for 10 days. During the headset sessions, patients work on challenges from the smartphone app. The challenges involve activities to reduce depression symptoms. After the initial 10 days, patients wear the headset twice each week for four weeks. Patients also continue to work on the activities in the Flow smartphone app every day, whether or not it’s a “headset day.”
Flow is scheduled to launch first in Europe in early 2019. U.S. availability for Flow has not been announced, but the company is taking email addresses to add to its mailing list to send a notification when Flow is ready.