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U.S. Regulators Approve Magnetic Stimulation Device for Depression

Neuronetics' repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation wins long battle for FDA approval. Questions remain about whether insurers will pay for it

3 min read

15 October 2008—Neuronetics, a medical-device firm in Malvern, Pa., has won approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to market its repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) therapy for treatment of depression in the United States. The device delivers tightly focused pulses of an MRI-strength magnetic field through the skull to produce current within a small portion of a person’s brain. At the end of Neuronetics’ clinical trial of patients with depression who had not responded to at least one drug therapy, one in two showed a significant improvement, and one in three were practically depression free. Neuronetics’ NeuroStar system is one of only three device-based psychiatric treatments that can be marketed in the United States.

Depression affects at least 14 million adults in the United States each year, but nearly 30 percent of patients with depression do not benefit from or are unable to tolerate antidepressant drug therapy. Device-based therapies such as rTMS are intended to treat those patients for whom drugs haven’t worked.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
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A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic
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Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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