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Can Magnets Make Us Happy? Investigating the Role of Dopamine in Putative Antidepressant Low-Intensity Magnetic Stimulation

Sommerkamp-Homann, Alexander (2019) Can Magnets Make Us Happy? Investigating the Role of Dopamine in Putative Antidepressant Low-Intensity Magnetic Stimulation. Research Project 1 (minor thesis), Behavioural and Cognitive Neurosciences.


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Major depression poses one of the greatest disease burdens to modern society and conventional treatments lack efficacy despite a steadily increasing prevalence. A new intervention method using low-intensity magnetic stimulation of the brain has shown promising results, also regarding “treatment-resistant” patients. Magnetic stimulation therapy may therefore become a key treatment for depression in the future. However, its influence on brain physiology is still poorly understood. In order to investigate the involvement of dopamine in the observed antidepressant effects, twenty volunteers underwent low-intensity magnetic stimulation in a double-blind, sham-controlled, within-subject measurements experiment. The degree of negative bias in facial expression recognition which is indicative of depression as well as handwriting size and finger-tapping speed which positively correlate with dopamine levels were assessed at different magnetic stimulation frequencies and compared with sham treatment. The antidepressant effect found in previous studies could be partially reproduced and has been observed to increase with stimulation frequency. However, no evidence of dopamine as a mediating factor has been found. An involvement of the noradrenergic network instead seems more probable. Potential limitations of this study include varying time intervals between repeated measures and a narrow range of different stimulation frequencies. Nonetheless, our findings are in line with previous research and highlight the importance to further investigate the influence of weak magnetic fields on the human nervous system, also outside of clinical applications.

Item Type: Thesis (Research Project 1 (minor thesis))
Supervisor name: Kortekaas, R. and Nieuwenstein, M.
Degree programme: Behavioural and Cognitive Neurosciences
Thesis type: Research Project 1 (minor thesis)
Language: English
Date Deposited: 31 May 2019
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2019 14:23

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