A headset and app combination has launched in the U.K. to treat depression.
The headset, developed by Swedish medical device company Flow, relies on a non-invasive form of brain stimulation that sends gentle electric currents into patients’ left frontal lobe in order to “rebalance” their neural activity, according to the company’s website. Categorized as a Class IIa medical device, it’s certified by the British Standards Institute to treat depression in Europe.
The device is paired with a mobile therapy app that patients use while wearing the headset. The virtual therapy app features content about depression and reducing symptoms.
According to results of a randomized controlled trial published in 2017, neural stimulation of the type used by Flow’s headset, known as transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS), combined with behavioral therapy produced similar effects as traditional antidepressants. Although, a higher dose of the antidepressant used in one of the study’s control arms, escitalopram, was found to be superior in efficacy to the tDCS treatment by a statistically significant margin.
Treatment sessions typically last 30 minutes, with two to five weekly sessions over a six-to-eight week period.
Flow is in talks with the UK’s National Health Service to make the headset available by prescription. The company also says it plans to submit the device for approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this year.
Pharmacologic treatments are also branching out. In March, the FDA approved another novel treatment for depression that uses the active ingredient in ketamine. The drug, branded as Spravato and developed by Johnson & Johnson, is a departure from the traditional antidepressant drugs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Zoloft or Prozac, that work to change the amount of serotonin in one’s brain.