Hyperthermia for Major Depressive Disorder4 min read

For more information about Hyperthermia please visit our website at www.lifehealthcenters.com or contact us at 385-336-7777. We are happy to answer any of your questions.

Clemens W. Janssen and his collaborators conducted a very interesting study which was published in 2016 at JAMA Psychiatry. In this study they tested whether Whole-body Hyperthermia has specific antidepressant effects when compared with a sham condition and they also evaluated the persistence of the antidepressant effects of a single treatment.1

Current theories have suggested that the brain is the sole source of mental illness. However, affective disorders, and major depressive disorder (MDD) in particular, may be better conceptualized as brain-body disorders that involve peripheral systems as well. This is based in the fact that clinical studies have showed afferent thermosensory signals contributing to well-being and depression. Although thermoregulatory systems have traditionally been conceptualized as serving primarily homeostatic functions, increasing evidence suggests neural pathways responsible for regulating body temperature may be linked more closely with emotional states, raising an affective warmth hypothesis.

For more information about Hyperthermia please contact us at 385-336-7777. We are happy to answer any of your questions.

Pathways by which thermal information is transferred from the periphery to the central nervous system reinforce potential links between warm-sensitive neural systems and affective disorder. Many of the brain regions most implicated in registering and reacting to thermal signals from the periphery have been shown to function abnormally in patients with mood disorders. Scientific findings have begun to bridge the gap between the emotional and behavioral consequences tied to physical warmth perceptions.2

It is known that our skin is populated with warm-sensitive nerve endings that sense stimuli that originate from sources that are outside of the body, such as touch, vibration, temperature, and sound. The thermosensory pathways that conducts stimuli from the skin to specific brain regions may affect neural activity and behavior in ways relevant to the treatment of MDD.2

Interestingly, exposure to cutaneous heating (41°C) activates a certain region in the brain that is associated with subjective pleasantness ratings made in response to the warm temperature.3

Another research, also conducted by Janssen, leads to the assumption that wellbeing in warm conditions is caused by serotonin and its pathways to several areas of the brain. Changes of the surrounding temperature are recognized by special sensors in the skin and signal to spinal cord and brain.4

Janssen and his collaborators found that WBH was associated with a substantial reduction in depressive symptoms that was apparent within one week of treatment. Active improvement, however, only occurred during the first 2 weeks after treatment. This suggests a timeframe of biologic effect more in line with the assumed effects of ketamine and scopolamine.1

For more information about Hyperthermia please contact us at 385-336-7777. We are happy to answer any of your questions.

Because of its sustained antidepressant effect and mild effect profile, this study concluded that WBH might be an attractive alternative to antidepressant treatment in the large percentage of individuals with depression who might respond adequately to an antidepressant trial, but who harbor negative beliefs/feelings about antidepressant medications that have been shown to reduce adherence and worsen therapeutic outcomes.1

Taken together, these findings suggest that whole-body hyperthermia provides rapid and sustained relief of depressive symptoms and may do so by sensitizing physiological pathways important for thermoregulatory cooling that also affect brain regions implicated in the regulation of mood.5

It seems that thermoregulation is a phylogenetic, very old mechanism and had strong impact on surviving from an evolutionary point of view. Treatments that include warmth seem to initiate an old and senior hierarchical leveled stress reaction with strong impact on homeostasis.4

For more information about Hyperthermia please visit our website at www.lifehealthcenters.com or contact us at 385-336-7777. We are happy to answer any of your questions.


  • Whole-Body Hyperthermia for the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder A Randomized Clinical Trial. Janssen CW, PhD; Lowry CA, Mehl MR, Allen JJN, Kelly KL, Gartner DE, Medrano A, Begay TK, Rentscher K, White JJ, Fridman A, Roberts LJ, Robbins ML, Hanusch K, Cole SP, Raison CL. JAMA Psychiatry 73(8):789-795, 2016.
  • Somatic influences on subjective well-being and affective disorders: the convergence of thermosensory and central serotonergic systems. Raison CL, Hale MW, Williams LE, Wager TD, Lowry CA. Psychol 13:1-22, 2015.
  • Warm pleasant feelings in the brain. Rolls ET, Grabenhorst F, Parris BA. Neuroimage 41 (4):1504-1513, 2008.
  • Passive Whole Body Hyperthermia in depressed Patients, by Clemens H.W. Janssen and Kay-u. Hanusch. May 2011 at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/255483364_Passive_Whole_Body_Hyperthermia_in_depressed_Patients
  • Whole-body hyperthermia for the treatment of major depression: associations with thermoregulatory cooling. Hanusch KU, Janssen CH, Billheimer D, Jenkins I, Spurgeon E, Lowry CA, Raison CL. Am J Psychiatry 170(7):802-4, 2013.

Contact us at Life Health Centers to learn how hyperthermia can help with your conditions.

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