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TMS and its Effect on Addiction

Theory Research
Repeating Pulses
Digging Deeper

 

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS sends electromagnetic currents near the frontal lobe of the brain to stimulate brain activity.  The medical community had used brain stimulation for years as an effective treatment for various psychiatric disorders, especially depressive and anxiety disorders.  

As a non-invasive medical procedure that uses a magnetic field to stimulate nerve cells in the brain, it remains one of the safest therapies to treat various health problems. Due to its efficiency and effectiveness, recent studies had explored other possibilities of TMS therapy to other types of health problems like addiction.

The US Food and Drug Administration of FDA approved TMS as a safe and alternative treatment for depression. Today, more scientists explore the possibility of other medical uses of TMS.

 

The Study Behind the Theory

The results show a promising clinical data indicating that TMS can help people recover from addiction.  Neuroscientists Antonello Bonci and Billy Chen from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in Baltimore spearheaded a study of rats trained to uncontrollably seek out cocaine. The rats are very much addicted that they tolerate electric shocks just to get their fixes. However, when researchers stimulated the rat’s brain using TMS, the animals were able to get out of their addiction.

In a journal published in Nature, Bonci and other scientists suggested that stimulating the prefrontal cortex can help addicts end their substance abuse. TMS can effectively target that area of the brain. As a non-invasive procedure stimulating neural activity, it might help with addiction.

There are several more studies conducted each year to support TMS therapy as a safe and effective alternative treatment method for various illnesses.

During TMS procedure, an electromagnetic coil is placed on the scalp near the forehead. The electromagnet delivers a magnetic pulse to stimulate nerve cells in the brain associated with controlling mood and depression – the two main emotional factor triggering addiction.

 

Repeated Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Repeated Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (sometimes referred to as rTMS) uses a coil that emits a magnetic wave that passes through the skull. This triggers an electrical field that can alter brain cells activity. This varies from low frequency about 1 hertz to a high frequency of 10 to 20 Hertz. Health care professionals study the strength based on the patient’s motor threshold, which is the needed amount of current that makes fingers or leg muscles move when a TMS session starts.

This procedure had been proved effective for treating depression. TMS affects the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which affects the limbic system, an area of the brain associated with addiction. Stimulating and regulating brain nerve cells in these parts can help decrease symptoms of addiction.

The subcortical generally the medial prefrontal cortex, modulates addiction but needing deeper stimulation using rTMS. Studies show that using H-coil and higher frequency stimulation with 120% motor threshold will yield better results.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, TMS show positive promise as an alternative addiction treatment.

 

Digging Deeper into the Brain

Still, TMS research needs to dig deeper into the brain to targets more areas of the brain. Usually, doctors use “figure 8 coil” but others use “H coil” which can reach deeper parts of the brain.

Scientists have tested the theory on nicotine dependence, one of the most studied forms of addiction. On several research studies, stimulating the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, (DLPFC) using “figure 8 coil” eventually decreases nicotine cravings. However, other studies show that nicotine dependence was totally eliminated. In alcohol dependence, TMS used in high-frequency targeting DLPFC showed promising effect.

Different studies consistently show TMS as a safe and effective tool for addiction treatment that carries no significant side effects.

 

What  is TMS?
Benefits of TMS 
Additional TMS Benefits 

 

More than 14 million American adults suffer from clinical depression. According to researchers, by the year 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability in the world. Around two-thirds of people suffering from depression will have another episode of the illness during their lifetime. Existing treatment options often lead to severe side effects.  In time these medications will lose their effectiveness in treating depression. These will eventually lead to a lack of adequate treatment options.

 

What is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS?

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS is a newly found advance treatment for resistant depression. The US Food and Drug Administration of FDA approved TMS for clinical depression that can no longer treat with previous conventional antidepressant medications and therapies. Patients who suffer from drug-resistant treatments and medications can benefit well undergoing TMS therapy.

 

The medical community approved TMS because of its non-invasive procedure. TMS does not require any sedation, anesthesia on its depression treatment. It’s a simple procedure which conveniently performed right inside the doctor’s office under their supervision. Patients are kept awake and fully alert during each treatment sessions.

 

As a non-systemic and does not include heavy doses of drugs. Also, because TMS is a non-pharmaceutical therapy, it does not entail any drugs to circulate throughout the body. Since TMS does not involve any medical procedure or drugs, it does not have side effects associated with antidepressant medications like weight gain, nausea, sleepiness, memory loss, and sexual dysfunction.

Initially, TMS was used as depression treatment but recent studies show that this procedure can also treat different brain disorders. Doctors used TMS to treat a wide range of mental disorders like generalized anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), tinnitus and cognitive impairments.

 

Some of the benefits of TMS include:

TMS active a large area of the Prefrontal Cortex

TMS delivers highly focus magnetic field pulses to the prefrontal cortex of the brain – to stimulate the area of the brain associated with depression. The procedure produces short bursts of magnetic pulses through the scalp and it triggers the neurons locally as it targets the areas of the brain. The pulses which the TMS machine produces are similar to what the MRI imaging scan emits. As the TMS machine produces these pulses, it stimulates the deeper and broader area of the brain linked to depression.

 

An effective depression treatment

Many can attest to the excellent efficacy of TMS therapy. Several studies support the effectiveness of this state of the art technique. During the 4 to 8 weeks of TMS treatment phase, clinically depressed people show a promising recovery that persists into the long term. The success of TMS treatment grows steadily over the years as newer treatment parameters have been discovered along with strategic targeting in the brain’s area. Even for people who undergone electroconvulsive therapy or ECT, they show significant recovery from depression.

 

Shorter treatment time

The average treatment for TMS therapy lasts for about 4 to 8 weeks.  During this time, patients can already notice great improvements in their overall well-being. Studies show that the improvements noted in the patient lasted for several years without any significant relapse. This saves a lot of time and money for both the providers and the patient.  Compare to antidepressant medications and therapies, TMS offers a safe and effective treatment for depression.

 

Other Benefits of TMS

Unlike the conventional depression treatments, TMS therapy does not produce systemic side effects like sedation, nausea, weight gain, sexual dysfunction, dry mouth. There are no reports of either memory loss or inability to concentrate which are both links to antidepressants.

 

Several clinical trials show that TMS therapy is an effective and safe treatment for patients who do not respond to previous antidepressant medications. TMS therapy offers very few side effects which are generally well tolerated by most patients. The most common side effect of TMS includes a slight scalp irritation and mild headache during the first week of treatment but will eventually subside.

 

Nothing says “something is wrong with your body” like pain. This primal sensation is what has kept us alive as a species and the brain does what it can to ensure that we feel them properly. Our nerves do a great job of delivering messages to the brain to make sure we are aware that something is damaged.

That’s not always the case though. Nerve and brain damage can sometimes cause the brain to feel pain even though nothing is particularly wrong with the area. One of these cases of chronic pain is called Neuropathy.

 

Neuropathy and Pain

There are many cases of Neuropathy and other chronic pain issues. But the most common reason why it happens is due to nerve damage, or issues with the way the brain perceives pain. There are treatments for these, including drugs such as antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and opioid-type pain relievers. These treatments are proven to work time and time again, but like all drugs, they have their own share of issues and drawbacks. One such drawback is toxicity due to constant exposure to the drugs. There’s also nerve surgery which is effective, but is invasive and could cut a deep hole in your pocket unless you have really good insurance.

 

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: Old Tech, New Ways

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation has been used decades ago, but not as a form of treatment. TMS was used as a way to map out brain damage and function in stroke patients and patients who suffered head trauma. Recent discoveries in brain function revealed that activating parts of your brain using electromagnetic pulses can “train” it to function better, or at least back to normal.

TMS is basically putting a magnet over your head and using that magnet. The magnet delivers electromagnetic pulses to your brain. The cells of your brain react to these electromagnetic waves. They activating them as if the brain itself commanded them to. The process harmless and adverse effects are both rare and conditional. These effects included motion sickness or chronic migraines. The procedure lasts for 30-60 minutes. These are done daily for 4-6 weeks, but some programs may differ in frequency.

 

Promising TMS Treatments for Chronic Pain

There are few approved TMS therapies for chronic pain. Progress is increasingly good. Clinical trials with large sample groups have shown that the therapy causes an analgesic effect that gives temporary relief from chronic pain. Further clinical trials explored different frequencies and methods on a multitude of patients. These revealed that electromagnetic stimulation not only creates an analgesic effect but also “train” parts of the brain to adjust to the pain caused by Neuropathy. This could lead to more permanent ways to reduce the pain, or even lead to curing it.

People who suffer from depression due to their chronic pain issues will find themselves relieved of the depression as well. TMS deep brain stimulation can help the brain generate dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter or brain chemical responsible for happiness. Solving depression and relieving pain using a non-invasive, non-health-detrimental procedure ought to cause a euphoria more rewarding than any drug.

 

Bipolar Disorder is a brain disorder that affects your mood in extreme ways. One moment you’re feeling alright, then you’re hit with an immense depression. In some cases, you feel incredibly happy, active and energetic and what’s odd is that you don’t remember when it started. Then comes this sudden tug of hopeless void, sometimes enough to make you faint on the spot.

 

This is not a way to live a healthy life and people with Bipolar Disorder struggle to live their everyday lives. There are effective medications to stabilize your moods, as well as psychotherapy. However, they have their setbacks such as time, costs, and physical conditions that can get in the way of medication. These were the only working methods until Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation was utilized.

 

TMS for Bipolar Disorder

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS for short) is the process of placing an electromagnetic coil over your head and delivering precise electromagnetic waves to your brain. Specific parts of the brain are stimulated over a period of time, normally lasting around 10-20 minutes at a time. TMS is already a proven treatment for Severe Depression, so researchers are looking into how it affects people with Bipolar Disorder.

 

How TMS Works

How it works is that the coil delivers an electromagnetic wave to the brain. The affected area reacts to the waves, stimulating it. One such proof that it works is that when the magnet stimulates the motor area of the brain, the patient’s arm or leg twitches. The amount of energy delivered is not enough to harm the brain, even after repeated exposure.

 

The procedure is very much like physical therapy. Think of a part of your brain as an arm that hasn’t moved because it was in a cast. It’s frail and can’t bend much. In physical therapy, the therapist assists in moving the arm and making you grab objects. The same can be said for TMS therapy. The waves activate a specific part of the brain, making them “stretch and bend” like they used to. Depending on the frequency of the waves, TMS can either stimulate the part of the brain or suppress activity.

 

Treating Bipolar Disorder with TMS is slowly becoming a reality. Clinical trials have determined that using TMS to target areas of the prefrontal cortex show improvement in patients. To make the clinical trial more thorough, they set up two treatments. First is the sham or placebo test, literally therapy whose only purpose is to make the patient think they are getting treatment. The second is the true treatment, where the mood-center of the brain is stimulated.

 

Further Research Required

The end result of the clinical trials is conflicting. The placebo test yielded little improvements, which was good. On the other hand, the true treatment displayed improvement with patients. The only conflict is that the effects mostly leaned on improving the depressive effects. According to the “Hamilton Depression Rating Test”, TMS made significant improvements in the patients with Bipolar Disorder. This means though TMS has not fully treated the disorder, it made a significant improvement in their lives. It’s now just a matter of adjusting the treatment methods to further improve the results.

Autism is a complex condition in the brain which impairs communication and social interactions. It affects 1 out of 80 Americans on average, even more so when you consider the world. Autism has a lot of varied symptoms and severities that it’s called “Autism Spectrum Disorder” to help encompass all of it.  

The cause of Autism is about as varied as its symptoms. In some cases, it’s caused by a faulty gene. In others, it caused by chemical imbalances or viruses during pregnancy, such as German measles. Autism is generally detectable around birth, up to the 3rd year of age. In some cases, a person may not display symptoms in the early years, only to dip in development after the 3rd year.

 

Today’s Autism Treatments

Treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder is generally advanced methods of training. There are also drugs that help manage certain severities of autism like antipsychotics. Ultimately, once it’s detected, it should be given attention as soon as possible.

One problem is that for children and adolescents with severe conditions, treatment is extensive. It’s a long-term procedure that demands attention, both medical and financial. It impacts the quality of life of both the child and their parents.

There is promising hope for alternative treatment. It’s in a form of a special machine attached to an electromagnet. The procedure is called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, TMS for short. It uses electromagnetic waves to stimulate specific areas of the brain.

 

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Trials for Autism

The treatment is still in the experimental stage. There’s no government-approved methods yet, but clinical trials all over the world show promise. What makes transcranial magnetic stimulation a novel approach to brain treatment, is how simple the procedure is.

An 8-shaped magnet is placed on the patient’s head. Afterwards, the machine generates precise pulses of electricity that activates the electromagnet. This delivers a precise amount of electromagnetism into the brain, causing the targeted part to activate. The effect is both seen and felt during the testing and mapping phase. In this phase, the electromagnet will target the motor area of the brain, causing the hand or a foot to twitch when the magnet is activated.

How TMS Works to Treat Autism

How it works to treat Autism, is essentially the same way you learn how to do a certain task. TMS therapy will activate certain parts of the brain to “flex” them. The procedure lasts up to 6 weeks, with daily, 30-60 minute processes. With this repetitive process, the brain eventually learns to activate properly and all the parts around the area adapt accordingly. By aiming the electromagnet on the part of the brain that controls communication, it can train the area to work correctly.

Clinical trials have shown improvements in a child’s behavior. There’s improvement in social skills and hand-eye coordination, which are markers for progressive brain development. TMS therapy, combined with proper training could be the key to reversing the effects of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

It’s only a matter of time before a proper method of TMS therapy is approved. With promising results from clinical trials and the global effort of researchers, we’re one step closer to fully understanding our brain, and perhaps a cure for its many illnesses.

 

It’s perfectly normal  to feel anxious, especially during times of stress or tension, such as the brief moment when your boss contemplates just after you asked for a raise. Anxiety is our brain’s way of preparing itself for danger. Not exactly to combat it, but to ensure that if we ever fight, or flee, our body is ready to act as best as it can.

 

When a person starts to feel anxiety outside where they should, problems start to arise. When anxiety occurs outside normal circumstances, and happens for days, over a course of more than 6 months, it’s classified as a disorder. The medical disorder is known as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, GAD for short.

 

It’s generalized because it has a number of causes, some of them unique to the person. It causes restlessness, fatigue, irritability, sleeping issues, and concentration problems, all of which make a significant dent in a person’s quality of life. What’s worse is that GAD is often accompanied, or causes other mental complications like depression.

Treatment via drug therapy is the most common solution, with counseling or Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy being the go-to for long-term treatment and recession prevention.

One downside to the otherwise effective ways to treat GAD is the high costs and the possible adverse effects due to the medication. If a person has good health insurance, that can be mitigated somehow, but not everyone has it.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: A New Hope

As the procedure is called, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS for short) is a relatively novel way to treat anxiety disorders. TMS was already in use decades ago in order to map out brain function in stroke patients. They figured that since our brain cells respond to weak pulses of electromagnetism, it could be used to stimulate brain cells to restore their function.

The idea is simple. An electromagnet is placed on top of your head and a machine regulates the electricity flowing to the magnet, creating minute pulses of electromagnetism. The targeted area of the brain is affected by the waves and they activate or at least react to the stimulation. Like physical therapy on a newly recovered leg or arm, the procedure will “train” and “massage” the target area of the brain to work back to normal. These procedures normally last about an hour and are done daily for 4-6 weeks.

 

Magnetic Pulses

The magnetic pulses are set to a low frequency of 1 Hz. Think of this as music. Lower Hz is slow, calm music while higher ones are the intense, fast beats. The low “hum” causes an inhibitory effect on the brain, calming activity as if listening to calming soul music. The pulsing is then aimed at the area of the brain where the cause of GAD is identified, such as the left prefrontal cortex. (The area above your left eye.)

The inhibitory effects showed remarkable results in reducing anxiety. Clinical trials with different experiments show consistent positive results, especially with continued TMS therapy. Currently, the only way to get TMS treatment for GAD is participating in clinical trials, but with solid evidence of improvement on patients, it’s only a matter of time before it’s approved as a treatment method.

 

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS is far from being a miracle, but the procedure has opened new ways to understand the brain. These ways are different from functional MRIs which view the activity of the brain in real time. TMS allows us to see the deeper and more subtle result of stimulating our brain cells. It allows us to identify what part of the brain does what, more accurately.

 

If you break the process down to its simplest steps, it’s basically putting an electromagnet on top of your head. The magnet activates in pulses using a machine that controls both the strength and the frequency. The electromagnet’s activation causes a somewhat loud “tick” sound akin to the sparks of electricity when inserting an electric plug into a socket. The machine generates high voltage bursts that deliver powerful electromagnetic waves. But despite the raw power fed to the magnets, it’s harmless to the receiver.

 

TMS Parts in General

There are two kinds of TMS. There’s the original TMS where there’s a large electromagnetic coil positioned on a certain part of your head to deliver single pulses. The other one is called Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or rTMS. It’s often a smaller pair of the electromagnet that delivers repetitive weaker bursts of electromagnetism over a period of time. Both of them have the same general parts.

 

The Electromagnets or Conductors

While it can be explained as simply aiming the magnets, how it actually works is a bit more complex. The magnets are composed of two coils that deliver a “beam” of electromagnetism. The two beams on their own are weak and won’t affect the brain that much. When they cross, however, the combined energy is enough to properly stimulate whichever part they land on. This is how TMS can stimulate specific parts of the brain.

 

The Pulse Generator

Basically, the machine that generates electricity to activate the electromagnets. The machine comes with a control panel that allows the user to alter the amount of electricity that flows to the electromagnet. They can also control the frequency of the pulses. The pulse generators are relatively large and heavy. But recent advancement in technology allowed development of smaller, semi-portable machines.

 

All in One TMS Machines

Since machines are getting smaller these days, so are TMS pulse generators. There are commercially released products where the magnet and the pulse generators come as one device. These relatively lightweight devices can be placed on your head to deliver pre-programmed frequencies.

 

The key to getting the right effect is to conduct the therapy continuously. TMS clinics offer programs that have 40-60 minute sessions every day for 5-7 days a week, lasting for 20-30 days. On average, people experience improvements in their depression and anxiety. What concerns most first-time users are the lack of sensations during the first few rounds of stimulation. Proof that it affects the brain is shown through the muscle twitches caused when the magnet is aimed at the motor part of the brain which controls your muscles. The procedure is indeed slow, which is important as so to avoid causing stress or damage.

 

A good number of people in the world hear sounds they shouldn’t be hearing. No, it’s nothing close to the supernatural. These people hear ringing or random sounds when there’s nothing that’s causing the noise around them.

 

This condition is called “Tinnitus” and it has a lot of causes. It could be due to serious issues such as brain damage and infection in the ear or could be as simple as a piece of dirt or ear wax lodged in your eardrum.

 

Though the causes can be identified, the mechanics behind Tinnitus is yet to be fully understood. There are cases where even if they managed to deal with the cause, the patient still hears random noises. This makes Tinnitus a symptom, rather than a condition on its own. Like a fever, you can treat it, but if you don’t deal with the actual problem, it will just keep coming back.

 

The most common cause of tinnitus is constant exposure to loud sound. Examples of these are constant exposure to construction noises or explosions. Construction workers and people who serve the military may be at risk of this. The cure is often to decrease the person’s exposure to loud noises. But, it doesn’t work for some people. Some people live with tinnitus for years. This can cause depression, anxiety, and concentration issues all their life.

 

Advancement in medical science have found a way to treat patients with long-term tinnitus. This process is through the simple use of electromagnets. The procedure is called “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.”

 

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Treatment for Tinnitus: How does it work?

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS, can be described as using a pair of electromagnets to stimulate certain parts of your brain using electromagnetism. It sounds simple, but that’s what makes it amazing. This procedure has little side-effects and shows direct results in treating Tinnitus.

 

During TMS therapy, the patient is sat comfortably in a chair and an operator will aim a number 8 shaped electromagnet an inch or two above the scalp. A machine connected to the electromagnet will deliver precise amounts of electricity. This causes the magnets to deliver pulses of electromagnetism.

 

The first step is to get you a physical and psychological exam. This is to ensure that you won’t have complications during the procedure and to understand your depression. When the physical exam checks out and the psychological evaluation is complete, you’ll be taken to the TMS clinic.

 

During the process, they will first “map out” the areas of your brain by activating the coil on certain areas of your head. You may feel a slight ticking in your scalp and your muscles may flinch, which is perfectly normal. When the doctor or operator has determined the right position, the machine will continue to send pulses to that specific part of the brain. I some cases, you may not feel any tapping or clicking sounds, but rest assured that the machine is doing its job.

 

After about 30-60 minutes of deep brain stimulation, the procedure ends for the day. Patients are highly encouraged to complete the entire procedure, lasting about 4-6 weeks to ensure that you get the best results.

 

Our entire body is controlled by the Central Nervous System. Our nerves are sprawled all over our body, sending minute messages to other cells, making them act. It can be as simple as making muscle cells contract and expand, which is currently allowing your eyes to move and read this. Likewise, the network of nerves controls everything else that makes you tick.

They don’t always work the way they should. In some cases, your eyelids may twitch all of a sudden. This is due to a small deficiency in nutrients. Other times, you might wake up, but your entire body isn’t awake. This is called sleep paralysis and could have many causes.

 

Parkinson’s Disease

In terms diseases that disrupt your body’s harmony with your brain, one example is Parkinson’s disease. The disease affects your nerves and Dopamine, the chemical in the brain responsible for “positive feelings” and the smooth function of your muscles.

With Parkinson’s disease, the nerves in your body responsible for making dopamine, break down. This causes issues with the way your nerves send signals to your muscles.

 

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

The symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease are as follows:

 

  • Stiff muscles and joints.
  • Slow muscular responses, or slow reflex.
  • Difficulting in sustaining muscle tension, such as holding a glass of water.
  • Problems with balance, such as walking or jumping.

 

No Known Cure

Parkinson’s Disease does not have a cure yet, nor do we know what directly causes it. What we know so far is what can affect it, and what’s common among people who have it. The effect is not immediate and will slowly progress as you age.

With the right treatment, people can live relatively good lives before the disease really sets in. In some cases though, the medication required for treatment could be incompatible with some people.

 

TMS to Treat Parkinson’s Disease

There is hope though, in the form of a non-invasive procedure known as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. The process is as simple as aiming an electromagnet on your head and sending a harmless pulse of electromagnetism. It may sound simple, but the implications are numerous. It has been used before as a way to make a functional map of the brain. TMS can also be used to map damage in the brain.

Now, it’s being used for the treatment of Severe Depression and Migraine. There are more conditions already in clinical trial, along with Parkinson’s Disease. What might be the best part of this is that TMS has very few side effects, especially when compared to traditional medication. Additionally, long-term side effects are practically nonexistent.

What makes TMS a hopeful treatment for Parkinson’s disease is TMS’s first intended use. TMS quickly became a way to map out the finer functions of our central nervous system. This allowed researchers to map out the “corticospinal system.” This system is what controls our movements, from the tiniest twitch to the strongest blows. They found out that stimulating regions of the corticospinal system improved motor functions.

 

Further Research Offers Real Hope

This allowed a better understanding of the disease, and stands as proof that TMS therapy could one day help people with Parkinson’s. Several clinical trials have found that TMS benefits parkinson’s patients and more studies are ongoing. Recent findings suggest that though they don’t have an established way to treat Parkinson’s, the information can guide current treatment decisions and pave the way for future research.

We know you have questions about TMS, how it works, whether it’s a good treatment option for you, and if your insurance will cover it. Contact us and we’ll be happy to help answer your questions and get you set up with your first appointment.

 

Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that had crippled people throughout history. Before humans began really studying psychology, people associated schizophrenia with demons and possession. Thanks to the advancement of cognitive sciences, we have a greater understanding of this mental disease.

 

Schizophrenia Symptoms

Common symptoms of this disease include:

  • Hearing voices with no external sources
  • Severe paranoia – e.g. believing other people are plotting against them
  • Twisted sense of perception
  • Using made-up words that make sense to them
  • Sociopathic behavior and self-isolation, often due to aforementioned paranoia

 

There are patterns to the disease, but schizophrenia can be unpredictable. The harder part is that there’s not much reason nor rhyme to the disease. A person can appear functional until they start talking, or have their episodes.

 

Antipsychotics

Schizophrenia currently has no “cure” as we don’t know the exact cause the illness. Thankfully, it’s manageable, allowing a person to live a functional life. One such treatment is through the use of antipsychotics.

We used antipsychotics since the 1950’s, but these drugs have side-effects. One of them, Clozapine, is an effective antipsychotic drug but can cause low white blood cell count, which can put a patient’s health at risk. Eventually, we developed drugs that don’t negatively affect the body as much. These “atypical” drugs are effective but can cause increased weight gain and metabolic changes, which can lead to a host of other risks.

Long-term use of these medications may cause involuntary twitching of your muscles. Called “Tardive Dyskinesia”, the body sends errant signals to the muscles, commonly around the mouth or the fingers.

 

How “Magnets” can Help

For people who want an alternative method of treating schizophrenia, magnets may have something to offer.

TMS or Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation can affect the brain in ways that are beneficial to schizophrenic patients. The effect can be witnessed during the “mapping” part of the procedure, where a patient’s hand or leg would twitch when the electromagnetic “coil” is activated on top of a patient’s head. Since the cells of your body are affected by electricity, precise and harmless electromagnetic waves can trigger neurons to fire.

This essentially “retrains” areas of the brain to activate better by stimulating them. TMS could also be used to enhance certain brain functions using the same stimulating effect. It has uses in treating depression and migraines, with more conditions already in clinical trials. The key on how TMS can help treat Schizophrenia is through “Cortical Inhibition”

Put simply, cortical inhibition is your brain’s way of calming down brain activity with GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid), a chemical responsible for helping you calm down from excitement or anger, among other things.

Researchers saw that an aspect of schizophrenia had something to do with the lack of cortical inhibition, which itself was caused by an impairment of a region of the brain. By using TMS to stimulate certain parts of the brain, it could potentially “retrain” those areas to activate during schizophrenic attacks and help patients more easily manage the symptoms on their own.

While clinical trials are ongoing and are so far inconclusive, there’s still a tremendous amount of speculation that TMS will widely recognized as an excellent treatment option for schizophrenia.

 

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TMS of the Palm Beaches

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