A 20-minute spell in an MRI tube is nobody's idea of a good time. So when several depressed patients exited a novel scanning session laughing, joking and exhibiting generally jovial behavior, researchers led by imaging physicist Michael Rohan and imaging center director Perry F. Renshaw at McLean psychiatric hospital in Belmont, Mass., quickly decided to investigate. What their preliminary study suggests is that the unique induced electrical fields associated with that particular type of magnetic resonance imaging session could improve the mood of patients with bipolar disorder.
The scan used in the study was an echo-planar magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (EP-MRSI) procedure, a fairly new method of MRI that McLean researchers were using to observe the effects of certain pharmaceuticals on bipolar subjects at the time of the serendipitous observation. Of the 30 individuals who received the EP-MRSI scans, 23 reported immediate mood improvement, the team says in the January issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry. The scans did not affect healthy individuals, eliminating the unsettling possibility that such electromagnetic therapy could be used to get a one-shot hit of happiness.
This article was originally published with the title Magnetic Moods.