An at-home, medical-grade brain stimulation headset has just launched in the UK, claiming to offer an alternative to pharmacological treatment for depression. The system is designed to be used alongside a therapy app.

The device has been approved as a Class II medical device in Europe, and the manufacturers, called Flow, are now in conversation with the NHS to make the headset available on prescription.

The device uses transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which has been demonstrated in clinical trials to have a similar effectiveness to antidepressants but with fewer side effects. Results from these studies have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the British Journal of Psychiatry. The treatment is a form of neurostimulation, which delivers a constant, low direct current via electrodes to the left frontal lobe of the brain, an area associated with reduced neural activity in those with depression.

A typical course of treatment with the Flow headset lasts for 30 minutes per session, with a total 18 sessions over six weeks. Continued treatment will then take place once or twice weekly. During the brain stimulation, patients engage with a virtual therapist via an app, which features information about the condition and advice on how to treat its symptoms.