McLEAN IN THE NEWS

Effects of magentic fields on human mood corroberated by animal study

April 28th, 2005

Carlezon study finds that animals are affected similarly by Low Field Magnetic Stimulation (LFMS)

William Carlezon, PhD, director of McLean's Behavioral Genetics Laboratory recently published a paper in Biological Psychiatry reporting that magnetic field pulses associated with a specialized type of MRI scan used to map brain chemistry produced antidepressant-like effects in rats, suggesting that electromagnetic fields can affect brain biology and might be useful in treating certain psychiatric disorders.

The animal tests were designed after a team of McLean researchers, headed by Michael L. Rohan, reported in 2004 that the use of a novel type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan called echo planar magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (EP-MRSI) had caused an improvement in mood among depressed subjects with bipolar disorder (see article). The scans were being used to map the patients' brain chemistry and the findings on mood were accidental.

In the study, the researchers exposed laboratory rats to a low-energy changing electromagnetic field that is a component of EP-MRSI and then evaluated the animals on a number of standard tests for depression. These included observing how the animals reacted when exposed to stress. Usually, rats develop learned helplessness behavior, believed to reflect despair, when repeatedly put under stress. Rats that had been exposed to the magnetic fields, however, showed fewer signs of helplessness during the stress tests. The fact that the magnetic stimulation appears to affect mood in animals is strong support for the argument that the previously observed subjective observations made on human subjects are, in fact, real effects.

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