Low Field Magnetic Stimulation

Low Field Magnetic Stimulation (LFMS) is a new electromagnetic experimental treatment for depression and anxiety. It uses a combination of low strength, high frequency electromagnetic field pulses to produce rapid improvements in mood. The rapid clinical response that LFMS provokes is significantly different from other treatments – subjects report mood improvement immediately upon treatment. These differences suggest that LFMS offers a new mechanism for the treatment of depression and anxiety.

The LFMS program at McLean Hospital is developing LFMS as a treatment for psychiatric disorders through an interdisciplinary program of clinical studies, functional imaging, cellular models, and systems design.

The LFMS program has four goals: increase the treatment effect, develop an improved device, characterize the clinical response in a set of related disorders, and establish an effective clinical protocol in collaboration with experienced clinical partners. This program includes the following projects:

  • Optimize the treatment field parameters to increase the clinical effect, using fMRI and EEG
  • Develop a smaller, more portable device that will operate on household power
  • Evaluate LFMS as a treatment for PTSD and anxiety.
  • Perform a large-scale study in major depression with an evaluation of clinical outcomes

History and Status The LFMS Device was developed at McLean Hospital by Dr. Michael Rohan following a serendipitous observation made during an MRI experiment in 2001. A recent publication of positive results (Rohan et al, Biological Psychiatry Aug 1 2014) has prompted interest in the technology; the observed patient response included a reduction in anxiety as well as in depression that suggests that LFMS could be successful as a treatment for PTSD.

Environment The LFMS program is located at McLean Hospital in Boston, MA USA, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital, and is performed as academic research within this institution. McLean is a psychiatric hospital and provides access to patient recruiting, a medical and psychiatric professional staff, imaging equipment and resources, as well as the regulatory apparatus necessary for human research in psychiatry.

Michael L. Rohan After a career developing and producing the first fMRI systems at Advanced NMR Systems Inc., Dr. Michael Rohan came to McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School in order to translate this experience to research in the field of psychiatry. The LFMS treatment is based on a discovery made in an MRI study of bipolar depression in 2001. Dr. Rohan developed this treatment from a hypothesis (following the original observation) into a medical device that is now being evaluated by the NIH as part of its RAPID program for fast acting antidepressants.