Copenhagen -A helmet that delivers electro-magnetic impulses to the brain has shown promise in treating people with depression, Danish researchers have said.

About 30% of those with the condition fail to respond to medication or psychological counselling. The new device targets malfunctioning blood cells in the brain. In clinical trials two-thirds who used it reported that their symptoms had disappeared, and improvements in mood were noticeable within a week.

The helmet was tested on 65 patients with treatment-resistant depression. The trials were conducted by the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at Copenhagen University and the Psychiatric Centre at Hillerod in North Zealand. Patients also continued taking their regular anti-depressant medication for the eight weeks of the trial.

‘They were feeling well, they were functioning well, they could start work,’ said Birgit Straaso, chief doctor at Hillerod. ‘The helmet is amazing,’ said Annemette Ovlisen, a graphic artist who suffered recurrent depression for 16 years and a participant in the Hillerod trials.

‘It’s like the fog lifts. It was like somebody hit the reset button.’ The device contains seven coils that deliver a dose of Transcranial Pulsating Electro Magnetic Fields (T-PEMF) to brain tissues.

The pulses are so minute that the patient cannot detect any sensation, and the only side effect so far is occasional ‘tiny’ nausea that immediately disappears after treatment. Prof Steen Dissing, of Copenhagen’s Faculty of Health Sciences is the helmet’s principal architect.

He said: ‘The device mimics electrical fields in the brain, and triggers the body’s own healing mechanism.’ The pulses activate capillaries in the brain, which form new blood vessels and secrete growth hormones.