Resetting the Brain

Can a pulsing magnet really change a personality? Doctors--and patients--are cheered by early tests

Martha, a mother of two from Connecticut, has suffered from depression for the better part of two decades. She has been to psychiatrists and psychologists and tried dozens of medications, but nothing seemed to work very well or for very long. Then last June she heard about an experimental treatment being tested at the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University. It involved aiming a powerful magnet at a spot on the brain to reset the wayward neural circuits that keep Martha, and millions like her, stuck in the downward spiral of depression.

Figuring she had little to lose, Martha...

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