The University of New South Wales (UNSW) and The Black Dog Institute are seeking participants for a trial of a new, non-invasive form of brain stimulation therapy for depression, known as Direct Current Stimulation (DCS).

Around 70 participants are being sought for the trial, which will be coordinated by a leading depression research team based at The Black Dog Institute's Prince of Wales Hospital site in Randwick.

The trial is one of the largest of its type in the world and involves stimulating frontal areas of the brain with very small, barely perceptible, currents, while patients remain awake and alert. It has no known serious side effects.

Early DCS trials in the sixties and seventies reported good results using small electrical currents over a few hours. The technique has now been standardized, using currents of 1-2 milliamps. Recently, three small studies in Brazil and Italy have found promising improvements in depressed patients treated with DCS.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) stands as the most effective treatments for acute depression. However, patient concerns with the cognitive side effects of ECT have encouraged the development of new, milder and more focal forms of brain stimulation.

Heading up the research is UNSW psychiatry professor Colleen Loo: "DCS involves applying a very weak electrical current to the skull to stimulate neurons in a region of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex, which is an area that is underactive in people with depression," she said.

"DCS primes the neurons so that, when they are triggered, their response is enhanced. This trial is suitable for patients seeking an alternative to medication, or who are unable to tolerate anti-depressant drugs or ECT," Professor Loo said.

Participants will receive DCS for 20 minutes five times per week over 3 to 6 weeks. The trial is ongoing all throughout this year and next year.

Depressed patients aged 18 and over who want to take part in the trial should phone 02 9382 3720 or email

Information is also available on the Black Dog Institute website

Media Contact: Steve Offner, UNSW Media Office, 02 93858107 or 0424 580 208