Several London-based clinics have become the first medical centres in the world to offer Swedish start-up Flow’s brain-stimulation headset to treat depression.

Outpatient clinics located in London’s Harley Street — a renowned medical district in the UK capital — will offer patients the headset as an add-on treatment alongside traditional therapy and psychiatrist services.

Flow has also said a further 10 clinics in the area have started trialling the headset, with the intention of recommending it to their patients.

The battery-powered headset uses neurostimulation to redress imbalances in brain activity thought to cause a number of mental health problems — including depression.

Chelsea Psychology Clinic consultant psychologist and clinic director Dr Elena Touroni said: “We pride ourselves on treating mental health conditions in an integrated, therapeutic approach.

“With Flow’s brain stimulation headset our highly respected experts now have a new tool to treat depression and help patients overcome their mental health challenges.”

Flow has also produced a free AI-powered smartphone app, which uses cognitive behavioural therapy via daily conversations, as well as exercises to teach users about depression.

Flow claims using the app and headset together maximises chances of recovery from depression.


How does the brain-stimulation headset treat depression?

Flow’s device uses transcranial direct current stimulation — a form of brain-stimulation where electrodes rest on the user’s forehead while they’re wearing the headset.

This differs from invasive deep-brain stimulation, in which electrodes are inserted directly into the brain through surgery.

Flow’s headset delivers a low, constant electric current to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — the region of the brain that controls cognitive skills and emotional expression.

This is said to nudge the neurons closer to a desired activity, which helps to adjust the lower neural activity in the area that is thought to cause depression.

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the British Journal of Psychiatry showed Flow’s headset had a similar impact to antidepressants but with fewer and less-severe side effects.

In these double-blinded trials, 41% of patients reduced symptoms of depression by at least 50%.

Flow CEO and clinical psychologist Daniel Månsson claims the combination of the headset and app offers a powerful treatment option.

The headset is currently available online for £399 ($488), and Månsson says the company is working towards making it available on prescription, initially through the UK’s NHS.