Prospective Study of Brain Wave Changes Associated With Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation

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Objective: To explore brain wave changes associated with cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES) among subjects receiving psychiatric care.

Methods: Quantitative electroencephalogram data were obtained before and after a 20-minute session of CES. The investigators recruited active-duty military subjects from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s Psychiatry Continuity Service, Bethesda, Maryland. Fifty subjects participated in this prospective, convenience sample study from August 2016 through March 2017. The main outcome measures were changes in brain wave activity and the Subjective Units of Distress Scale.

Results: The typical subject was mildly depressed and had severe trauma-related symptoms and sleep problems. There was a significant increase (P = .000) in the higher beta frequencies (18–21 Hz, 21–33 Hz, and 33–48 Hz) and a strong effect (with the Cohen d around 1.5) immediately following the 20-minute CES. Ten minutes after CES, slower wave activity (4–8 Hz and 8–12 Hz) significantly decreased (P < .05), while higher beta wave activity (13–15 Hz, 18–21 Hz, and 21–33 Hz) increased. A strong effect (with the Cohen d around 1.5) persisted in the beta brain wave bands 18–21 Hz and 21–33 Hz.

Conclusions: Brain wave measurements taken immediately after the 20-minute CES session showed a significant and strong effect in the beta region, suggesting an increase in mental alertness, focus, and concentration. Ten minutes after the CES session, an even more marked change in brain wave activity occurred. The significant and strong effect in the beta region persisted but was joined by a reduction in slower wave activity, indicating an increase in mental alertness.

Trial Registration: identifier NCT03298308

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2018;20(1):17m02214