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Charleston VA researchers say magnetic treatment can put depression in remission

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Doctors at Charleston's VA say they are testing a way to cure depression and prevent suicides without surgery. The three-year study at the Ralph H. Johnson VA is in the home stretch and the results have been positive.

Navy veteran Percy Jones faced his biggest life battle after he left the military.

"I was suicidal. I just didn't want to live," the Navy veteran said.

He came to Charleston to be closer to family and ended up working as a custodian at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center. He also became a patient there.

For five days a week for six weeks straight, Jones underwent trans-cranial magnetic stimulation.

"It would start tacking. I'd hear it tacking at my head. I had to sit there about 30 minutes," he said.

The Charleston VA is one of eight medical facilities in the country testing TMS. Dr. Mark George said he invented TMS in the 1990s.

"We stimulate this part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex and if we do that daily for several weeks, we can get people un-depressed," George said.

He said his theory was paying off; 60 percent of patients in the trial reached a state of remission with their depression.

That included Jones.

"It was just like a door opening. I started smiling more and sleeping. I would say it suppressed my depression and anxiety enough for me to be me," Jones said.

"You see people like Percy who get their lives back, I have to pinch myself. It's a dream," George said.

George said they hoped to use it to combat suicide and depression in vets.{}

He said the treatment could cause seizures or be risky for people with pacemakers or shrapnel wounds.

Researchers said the study would end in spring 2016.

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