The World Health Organisation conducted a survey from June to August 2020 that includes 130 countries. Among these countries are six regions under WHO which brought light to the impact of COVID-19 on mental health services. The survey showed that 93% of the countries that took part in it experienced severe disruptions in their mental health services. This includes emergency interventions that respond to prolonged seizures, severe substance use withdrawal syndromes, counseling and psychotherapy, accessing medication, and so on.
Similarly in a recent study, it was found that the leading mental health concerns reported in China, Spain, Italy, Iran, the US, Turkey, Nepal, and Denmark, during the time of the pandemic, were depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other anxiety-related disorders. It will take a while for the health services to become fully functional.
In the meantime, finding technological solutions and addressing mental health concerns seems to be the next step. However, can a combination of hardware and software really help with depression? Currently, there are several mental health assistance apps and start-ups such as Unmind that aim to do just that. A startup called Flow Neuroscience is confident that it can contribute to the assistance on mental health.
Calling all #healthcare professionals, psychiatrists, psychologists & doctors! Are you interested in providing an alternative non-pharmaceutical #depression treatment to your patients? Read about how Flow could fit into your practice & empower your options https://t.co/3LYeS2N43V pic.twitter.com/pZqMkpAtZP
— Flow Neuroscience (@flowneurosci) October 31, 2020
Stimulating therapy for mental health at home
With backgrounds in clinical psychology, computational neuroscience, and electrical engineering, Daniel Mansson and Erik Rehn started Flow Neuroscience to provide mental health treatment at home. The company’s product, the Flow tDCS device, is a headset that provides mental health assistance when connected with its Flow Depression app.
As its name suggests, the Flow tDCS device offers transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) therapy through the headset and behavior therapy through the app. The headset applies a brain stimulation technique to treat depression that has a get-treated-at-home option. What’s more, it is much more affordable compared to techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Just like ECT, tDCS also uses electric signals to stimulate certain areas in the brain but the signals are much weaker than in an ‘electric shock therapy’.
Depression has been associated with reduced activity in certain areas of the frontal lobe of the brain. The Flow tDCS device sends electric pulses directly to these areas. The electric pulses and their intensity levels are controlled through the app. Apart from that, the app has many in-built therapy sessions which, when combined with the tDCS therapy, help in getting through depression. With regular use, the results will start to appear in three weeks.
Our headset, now available in the UK, is based on a well-researched brain stimulation technology called Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS). In clinical studies tDCS has been shown to reliably improve symptoms of depression https://t.co/48bhMSKBS8 pic.twitter.com/z7yrtRWaDT
— Flow Neuroscience (@flowneurosci) August 31, 2019
The creators have designed the treatment based on Andre Russowsky Brunoni’s work regarding transcranial direct current stimulation technique to treat depression. Brunoni along with others, in a study published in 2012, concluded that tDCS therapy has the potential to treat depressive disorders including major depressive disorder (MDD). And in 2013, another study conducted by Brunoni and colleagues showed that “tDCS has effects similar to those of sertraline in antidepressant-free patients with MDD, we observed that tDCS and sertraline combined have greater response compared with each intervention alone.”
If you’re suffering from depression, this device may be a solution to mitigate this. Currently, the Flow tDCS device is available for €459. There’s also an option to try out the product as a rental for €45 per month.
YouTube: Can you treat depression with brain stimulation? – Flow
Photo credit: The feature image is only symbolic and has been taken by Abdiel Ibarra. The product image has been provided by Flow as part of a press kit.
Sources: WHO / ScienceDirect / Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry / JAMA Network