Medical device company Flow has launched a medication-free treatment for depression in the UK. The treatment comprises a brain stimulation headset and a therapy app.
In a Q&A with Digital Health Age in November, its co-founder and CEO Daniel Månssonsaid: “The headset uses transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a form of neurostimulation that delivers a gentle electrical signal, which activates neurons in the left frontal cortex of the brain.
“People diagnosed with depression often have a lower activity in this area and the stimulation works to rebalance this activity. During this process the user interacts with a virtual therapist, via the app, to specifically treat the symptoms of depression. The app teaches the user about depression, and how to reduce it using techniques for improved sleep, healthier eating, effective exercise and stress-reducing meditation.”
Randomised controlled trials published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the British Journal of Psychiatry showed that brain stimulation, of the type used in the Flow headset, had a similar impact to antidepressants but with fewer and less-severe side effects.
Andre Russowsky Brunoni, psychiatrist, associate professor at the University of São Paulo Medical School and co-author of the New England Journal of Medicine and British Journal of Psychiatry study, said: “By combining tDCS with behavioural therapy, the Flow team has created a powerful medical device treatment. I have seen first-hand the possibilities this technique has in providing a treatment for unipolar depression without the several adverse effects associated with pharmacological therapies.”
In Europe, Flow is classified as a Class II medical device by the British Standards Institute, intended for use as a treatment for depression. Treatment typically lasts for 30 minutes per session, with 18 sessions over 6 weeks. Continued treatment is then possible for 1-2 sessions per week.
Following the launch, Månsson said: “We want to support the improvement of the current standard of care for people living with depression by increasing treatment choice and empowering patients to self-manage their symptoms at home with effective, non-pharmacological, alternatives.”