Warm thoughts? Treating depression with whole body hyperthermia

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[Editor’s note: David Haggerty is a neuroscience graduate student at the Indiana University School of Medicine.]

A collaborative effort, led by psychiatrist Clemens Janssen at University of Wisconsin–Madison, piloted the first ever double blind clinical trial to try and show that hyperthermia can relieve symptoms of major depressive disorder better than SRRIs can – and that it can do so without any of the dreadful side effects like extreme weight gain, panic attacks, suicide attempts, insomnia, or sexual dysfunction that can accompany those drugs.

To induce whole-body hyperthermia, the 16 participants laid down in a device that covered and isolated their bodies from the neck down. Inside the chamber, infrared lights aimed at their chest and legs heated their body to 38.5°C (101.3°F).

The group that received whole-body hyperthermia had an average decrease of 6.53 points in the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale one week after treatment compared to the control group. At six weeks, the average comparative decrease was 4.27. The effect size, a measure that shows how well the treatment worked, was 1.66 after six weeks. For reference, the best anti-depressant medications usually show a decrease of three to four points on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, and their effect size is usually about 0.35. This suggests that hyperthermia treatments could be four times as effective as the average drug.

It’s exciting to see how simple and safe some of the solutions to our biggest problems can be.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Could raising our body temperature treat depression?