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Mental Health

MATT Can Ease Anxiety, Depression and Other Psychiatric Disorders

— May 17, 2022

MATT is a noninvasive, nondrug treatment option for improving mental health.

A small pilot study has shown that users of the Mechanical Affective Touch Therapy (MATT), a therapeutic device that can be used at home, found it improved their anxiety and depression symptoms.  Improvements were linked to positive changes in “alpha and theta oscillatory activity,” according to researchers.  The investigational device is, thus, a promising noninvasive and non-habit-forming approach for improving these disorders.

“MATT is part of a large movement toward developing therapeutic devices that patients can self-administer at home,” explained study author Linda L. Carpenter, MD, professor of psychiatry at Brown University, and director of the Neuromodulation & Neuroimaging Core at Butler Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island.  She added that the study, published in the April 22 online edition of Frontiers in Psychiatry, “is a step in the right direction of improving the technology used to treat anxiety disorders.”

Therapeutic noninvasive peripheral nerve stimulation is is being investigated as a means of lessening anxiety as well as pain and depression. Nerve activation is accomplished by sending waves electrical or mechanical energy.

MATT Can Ease Anxiety, Depression and Other Psychiatric Disorders
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

In 2021, another team of researchers published promising findings regarding the use of MATT for the treatment of anxiety in the journal Brain Stimulation.  Specifically, the team reported, “Baseline RSFC (resting state functional connectivity) is predictive of symptom improvement with chronic MATT.  Acute increases in insula connectivity were observed between mid-cingulate cortex and postcentral motor regions following the first MATT session.  Chronic MATT was associated with increased connectivity between pain and anxiety regions of interest (ROIs) and posterior default mode network (DMN) regions involved in memory and self-reflection; the connectivity changes correlated with decreases in stress and depression symptoms…MATT is associated with alterations in RSFC in the DMN of anxiety disorder patients both acutely and after long-term administration, and baseline RSFC is predictive of post-treatment symptom improvement.”

At the time, investigators also stated, “Although electrical stimulation is considered low risk, mechanical stimulation that activates somatosensory pathways has an even more robust safety profile.”

To use a MATT device, participants place a headset with a small vibrating piece on top of their head and let it rest on the mastoid bone behind each ear.  These pieces deliver gentle vibrations that activate the pleasure-reward system.  The vibrations can be adjusted by patients.

“During development of the MATT stimulation,” researchers of the current study noted, “an isochronic 10 Hz wave, cycling 2 seconds on and 2 seconds off, induced a state of relaxation and increased occipital alpha oscillations in pilot study participants.”

The most recent sample included “22 patients (mean age 37.3 years, 72.7% female, 77.3% White).”  All had been previously diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and had “at least moderately severe” symptoms associated with their disorder.  Some suffered from debilitating panic or depression.  Many reported being on prescription medications that were not effective and/or wanting to find a “nondrug method of relieving their symptoms,” said Carpenter.

After adjusting the MATT to deliver a level of vibrational stimulation that was detectable but not uncomfortable, participants took their device home and were instructed to use it at least twice per day for 20 minutes each session.


Mechanical Touch Therapy Device Promising for Anxiety

Mechanical Affective Touch Therapy (MATT) for Anxiety Disorders: Effects on Resting State Functional Connectivity

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