Over the past few years, there are several studies indicating the efficacy of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS as an alternative depression treatment.
Researchers at Butler Hospital along with the collaboration of different clinics in the US confirmed the efficacy of TMS treatment for patients with depression who were unsuccessful on their antidepressant medications. Their finding is one of many first studies who delved into the use of TMS treatment. It was published on June 11, 2012 edition of Depression and Anxiety in the Wiley Online Library.
How did TMS Start?
Anthony Baker introduced TMS in 1985 at the University of Sheffield in England. It was intended as a neurodiagnostic tool used to produce an evoked potential in muscle tissue by activating neurons in the motor cortex. The whole concept of TMS was based on the two basic principles of physics; Faraday’s principle of electromagnetic induction and Ampere’s law.
Faraday’s principle involves the use of electromagnetic induction and that voltage can be measured and changed when generated across a length of wire – if the wire was left exposed to a perpendicular magnetic field flux of alternating intensity. Also, Ampere’s law state that the magnetic field can be managed around an electric current is proportional to the electric current.
TMS principle revolves around this principle. The stimulation coil consists of several wire loops encased in an insulating material. According to Kobayashi M, Pascual-Leone A. in Transcranial magnetic stimulation in neurology, “If a pulse of current is passed through this coil and placed over a person’s head, it produces rapidly changing magnetic pulses that penetrate the scalp and skull and reach the brain with minimal attenuation.”
Because of this, TMS can emit rapid and powerful but painless magnetic field that stimulates brain nerve cells. In doing so, it activates inactive region in the brain associated with depression.
Since its introduction in 1985, TMS had been studied as an alternative treatment for various mental disorders. Several studies show that TMS can be an effective treatment for major depression, Tourette syndrome, reducing auditory hallucinations in patients with schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. There a lot of evidence showing the efficacy of TMS in psychiatry.
Another Form of Electromagnetic Treatment
However, TMS was not the first treatment introduced that uses electromagnetic pulses. It was Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) that was first used in 1938 which also show the significant result in treating major depression. Unfortunately, ECT uses an invasive method like anesthesia which resulted in severe side effects. It soon loses its popularity amongst patients with depressive disorders.
ECT remains one of the most controversial forms of treatment in the entire field medical science. It’s a love and hate relationships. But one film stands out in providing a wide range of people about the use ECT. The film “One Flew over Cuckoo’s Nest”, shows how crude treatment method ECT can get. Even though ECT can also effectively treat depressive symptoms, there has been a steady decline of its use in clinical psychiatry clinics.
A Safer Treatment Method
About 16.1 million people suffer from depressive disorders across the US. Depression is a serious illness affecting 350 million people worldwide; it’s becoming the largest health problem in the world. The medical community had developed medications and treatment plan to help manage its symptoms but there are patients who do not respond positively to these. Using medications often entails adverse side effects like tolerance and drug addiction.
The approval of FDA for TMS had cleared the TMS brain-stimulating device for treating depressive disorder to patients where antidepressant has failed to work. TMS brings new hope and vitality to patients and their families wherein it shows better results than the conventional treatment plan. It has far lesser and fewer side effects, some does not even experience and adverse reaction to TMS procedure.
TMS procedure shows its efficacy to over 24,000 people suffering from depressive disorder. About 1 out of 3 people have experienced complete remission from depression. While 50% of patients reported having significant reductions in their symptoms. The American Psychiatric Association also supports the use of TMS for patients who develop tolerance over their antidepressant medications. They suggest that medical professionals should consider TMS as a form of treatment rather than changing from one antidepressant to the other. Using antidepressant medications often lead to drug addiction.
One study conducted by Garcia-Toro M, Mayol A, Arnillas H, et al in their book entitled “Modest adjunctive benefit with transcranial magnetic stimulation in medication-resistant depression” shows that TMS can treat depression symptoms as effectively as any antidepressant medications.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or simply known as TMS is a non-invasive, non-systemic procedure that stimulates brain nerve cells to treat Major Depressive Disorders. Generating magnetic waves similar to an MRI, TMS therapy is safe to use for everyone. This painless electromagnetic pulsed emits magnetic fields in specific parts of the brain associated with mood and behaviors.
Magnetic waves can reach into deeper parts of the brain without the use of pharmaceuticals or surgeries. TMS therapy is usually done inside the doctor’s office for about 30 to 45 minutes over a period of 4 to 6 weeks of treatment sessions. Since it does not require any surgeries, anesthesia, and hospitalization, patients can immediately go back to their daily lives following each treatment sessions.
The US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of TMS as a safe and effective treatment for depressive disorders in 2008. This painless procedure was given a nod to treat patients with resistant depression symptoms when all antidepressant treatments have failed.
How Does TMS Work?
Majority of people suffering from depression failed to respond with the conventional medications and psychotherapies. Experts believed the region in the brain near the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex tends to be underactive while some parts of the brain remain overactive. This creates chemical imbalances within the brain structures causing some of the most common depressive symptoms. The electromagnetic pulses that TMS machine produce can penetrate deep into the brain that activates inactive brain cells while suppressing other brain regions without the use of medications and surgeries. TMS therapy is a safe and effective treatment option to stimulate the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and treat depressive symptoms.
During a TMS procedure, health care providers placed an insulated magnetic coil over the head of the patient. It then emits magnetic pulses that stimulate brain neurons; it’s painless yet effective method of treating depression. As a non-invasive and non-systemic method, patients can immediately go on with their daily activities following the treatment session.
Why is TMS so effective?
TMS consistently produce positive changes in neuronal activity in regions of the brain often linked in mood regulation. As the magnetic waves pass through the skull painlessly and into the brain, this triggers the brief activity of brain cells directly underneath the treatment coil. Health care providers monitor the frequency and the threshold of magnetic waves as it directly influences brain activity during TMS treatment sessions. Some recent studies suggest that stimulating the left or the right sides of the brain can have opposite effects on mood regulation. That is why all patients needing TMS treatment undergoes strict and thorough medical assessment to fully identify their particular need.
When is TMS therapy recommended?
Antidepressant medications and psychotherapy remain as the first line of treatments for Major Depressive Disorders. Unfortunately, the majority of patients failed to respond accordingly to these conventional treatment methods. If patients failed several times using pharmaceuticals, then doctors may recommend TMS therapy or to combine antidepressant medications and psychotherapy. Also, patients to who cannot tolerate medications might also consider undergoing TMS therapy.
But not everyone can undergo TMS therapy, as the machine functions like an MRI, patients with metallic implants, pacemakers, bullet fragments and the likes are prohibited from using TMS. This can interfere with such metals and may cause adverse side effects.
Who will benefit the most from TMS therapy?
Numerous research and clinical data show that patients with resistant to conventional medications respond better to TMS than others. Since TMS is a simple procedure, it does not involve the use of any pharmaceuticals that are known to have severe side effects like weight gain, irritability, sleep problems, digestive problems, and sexual dysfunctions. Patients undergo TMS therapy in a very comfortable clinical setup without the stress of having these problems.
How long does it take to see results from TMS?
Each person has their own genetic make-up, the response time from TMS therapy varies from one patient to another. Some patients reported to feel a lot better than the others; they claim to experience relief within the first week of a therapy session. In some instances, patients will notice a big difference in their symptoms within the 4th week of treatment. This huge improvement has a lasting effect on the patient, the majority of patients claim that they can function better without worrying about relapses.
However, if TMS works slowly for others it does not mean it’s not effective, some people just take a little more time to readjust the brain and create new neural pathways. But the effects are the same; it relieves depression even for patients with treatment-resistant disorders.
According to the Center for Disease Control, antidepressant drugs are one of the most prescribed medications in the United States. At least 1 out of 20 Americans suffers from depressive symptoms aged with the highest incidence in people 40 to 59 years of age.
Among the easiest way to treat depression is to safeguard the mental health and eating the right food. Proper nutrition along with adequate sleep promotes good health and regular balance in the limbic system or emotion center of the brain.
Although there are no specific food groups that can instantly cure depression, it may ease the symptoms. Eating the right food can help in the overall treatment of depression. Here are some of the best foods to munch on whenever that “depressive feeling” sets in.
Cashews and walnuts are the best sources of magnesium and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Depression is often related to low magnesium intake. Several studies show that omega-3 fatty acids reduce depression symptoms and promote brain function. The brain composes 80% fats or lipids and several studies shows that good fats correlate to better brain function. In a study of the British Journal of Psychiatry, they found out that the reduction of omega-3 fatty acid in the Western diet parallels to the increase of psychiatric disorders. Walnuts contain one of highest plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Grab a handful of either of these two for an energy-boosting effect that can elevate good mood.
Dark and Leafy Veggies
Based on a study of JAMA Psychiatry, leafy vegetables fight against all kinds of inflammation. Also, severe depression has been associated with brain inflammation. These leafy greens contain vitamins A, C, E, K, and phytochemicals that lessen inflammation in the body. As Joel Fuhrman said in his book entitled “The End of Dieting” leafy vegetables contains anticancer and immune boosting effects. Go for Kale, Spinach, and Swiss Chard to get the best nutrients needed to fight depression.
Fruits: Avocado, Berries, and Apples
Avocados belong to the power food group due to the high concentration of healthy fat and Oleic Acid that gives brainpower. These fats feed the brain for that much-needed energy in order to run in top condition. This fruit contains 4 grams of protein and is loaded with vitamin K, C, E12 and several vitamins B like B9, B6, and B5 higher than most fruits. Almost three-fourths of the calories from avocados is monounsaturated fat called oleic acid. Unlike other fruits, avocados are low in sugar but high in dietary fiber with an average of 11 grams per serving.
All kinds of berries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries contain the highest level of antioxidant from all other fruits. These antioxidants assist in the cell-repairing ability of the body, thus promoting healthy skin and good mood. They repair cells within the body which prevents cancer and other serious illnesses from developing. According to the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, patients are seen to have lower depressive symptoms when treated with antioxidants.
An apple a day keeps the bad mood at bay. Apples like berries are overflowing with antioxidants and fiber. They can help repair DNA and inflammation in the body on the cellular level. They are also teeming with fiber that helps in balancing blood sugar swings. Simple sugar is one of the biggest culprits in triggering mood swings.
Tomatoes are full of depression fighters that help promote a good mood. It contains folic acid and alpha-lipoic acid in which both chemicals are good for treating depression. In a research conducted by the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, most patients diagnosed with depression lack folate in their daily diet.
Countless studies and experiments show that exercise is one of the most effective ways of promoting good mental health. Regular exercise can effectively alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety and more. It promotes better memory, relieves stress, boosts overall mood and helps to get that good night sleep. It doesn’t have to be a rigorous training spent on the gym, a simple modest exercise can really make an impact on mental health. Exercise is an all-powerful move for most mental health illnesses.
It reduces the risk of developing serious illnesses like heart and lung disease, high blood pressure, obesity, cancer, dementia, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. People who suffered from a stroke can benefit well from exercise.
Positive Benefits of Exercise
Aside from losing weight and promoting better sleep patterns, most people do exercise because it motivates them to ‘get-going’ and has a sense of well-being. Having a target routine each day makes it easier to get up from the bed and stay active. Getting the body moving is one of the most natural remedies to beat depression and in keeping the mind healthy.
One of the most common mental benefits of exercise is to relieve stress. Sweating during workouts can help manage physical and mental stress. Exercise triggers large concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that assists the brain to fight mental stress. Working out can also boost the body’s immune system while dealing with existing mental tension.
Generates Happy Chemicals
Laboring on the treadmill can be a tough business but it’s worth the trouble. When doing any kind of exercise whether vigorous or moderate, it releases chemical called endorphins. This chemical is responsible for creating feelings of happiness and euphoria. Several studies show that exercise can greatly alleviate depressive symptoms of the clinically depressed people. Doctors commonly recommend to patients with depression or anxiety to hit the gym at any given time. For this reason, exercise is proven to be as effective as antidepressant pills prescribed in treating depression.
It Improves Self-Confidence
Even an amateur hitting the gym for the first time will feel a million bucks upon hopping on a treadmill. Being in the gym and making that first step towards change can boost self-confidence on a different level. It implies positive self-image regardless of weight, gender, or age. Exercise creates another view of perception towards self-worth and attractiveness. In a way, this promotes positive thinking which generates good mental health up a notch.
Enjoy the Great Fun Outdoors
Who says exercising is limited on a gym time? A simple walk or an afternoon stroll in the great outdoors or even in a park can greatly alleviate good mood. The vitamin D from the D can decrease depressive symptoms. There is a lot to choose from like hiking, biking, boating, kayaking, rock-climbing and more – the options are boundless. A single round of jog around the park while enjoying a scenic view can greatly increase self-worth.
Prevents Common Brain Illnesses
As time goes by, the brain gets a little bit cloudy. Aging makes the brain lose important neuro-connections. As a result, the people can become sluggish and lose many vital brain functions. Poor brain function often leads to degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s which kill off brain cells. However, exercising cannot cure such diseases but it can surely put them at bay for several more years. Working out at in early years of life can prevent degeneration of the brain particularly in the hippocampus. It’s an area in the brain responsible for memory and learning.
It’s a common knowledge that hitting the gym even for a moderate workout can tire you out. Not in a sense of breaking point but just enough to promote relaxation needed for a good night sleep. For many, exercising is better than a sleeping pill, even for those who suffer from insomnia. Getting the body active for about 5 to 6 hours before bedtime raises the core temperature of the body. After that the body drops back to its normal temp, signaling the body to sleep.
While exercise offers a chance to lift your mood, it’s not going to be effective every time for every person, especially in cases of chronic mental illness. Get effective help treating your mental illness without having to pump yourself full of drugs. Contact Us today to learn about Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and how it can make mental illness much more manageable.
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.
Depression makes a person lose hope, drains their energy, even making day to day tasks difficult to perform. Overcoming depression is not as easy as it looks; it takes time, effort, and courage. However, even in severe cases of clinical depression, it is still possible to beat the illness. The key to combat depression on your own is to start small and continuously feed the positive energy to keep it going. Defeating depression takes a lot of dedication and strong will. Nevertheless, with just simple positive choices each day will really make a big difference in the long run. It might not ultimately be as effective as combining psychotherapy with transcranial magnetic stimulation in Miami Shores, but even the smallest bit of help can go a long way.
One can start with one single decision – changing one’s behavior. Adding a physical activity and shifting healthy lifestyle is one of the many natural depression treatments. The first step is usually the hardest but building a routine from there will gradually lift the heavy fog of depression. Here are the top 5 things to do to combat depression.
Build a Support Group
Reach out to family and friends; depression is really hard to tackle on your own. The very nature of depression is to make a person isolated and withdrawn from their loved ones. It will get harder to seek help once depression seeps deeper into the person. Staying connected and taking part in the family or other social activities will make a big difference in the recovery. There will be instances in which depression will make it harder to talk, socialize or to reach out, but don’t lose hope and keep trying.
Do What You Love
To better manage stress, do activities that can energize the body. This includes following a fun and healthy daily routine and scheduling interesting activities. Try to remember activities that used to be fun. Go back and relearn other hobbies that may have been long forgotten. Having your mind preoccupied with something else can reduce the symptoms of depression. It rewires your brain to think more positive. It may not immediately cure depression but it can surely lift the spirits and generates good mood.
Get Moving and Exercise
Getting out of bed when depression kicks in can seem like a disheartening task, not to mention hitting the gym. But exercising is one of the most vital steps in fighting depression. Several studies show that exercising is an effective natural treatment for alleviating depression symptoms. Sweating in a treadmill releases chemical called endorphins. These chemicals are responsible for generating feelings of euphoria and happiness. No one expects a depressed person to hit the gym in a rigorous exercise for a full session. Even a 10-minute walk can improve overall mental health. Exercising can also prevent relapse once fully recovered.
Enjoy the Sun
The vitamin D from the sun’s rays triggers serotonin levels in the body to improve mood. Take every chance of going out and basking in the sun even for at least 15 minutes a day. Anyone can do this simple task while taking a quick walk during lunch break, enjoying an al fresco dining or spend some time gardening. Whenever the opportunity comes in take advantage of exercising outside of going for a hike, jog or swim on a beach. Spending time under the sun can greatly contribute to overcoming depression, in the long run, even a possibility of faster recovery.
Stock up your pantry and eat healthily. The right food groups can drastically improve good mood. Also, stay away from foods that affect the brain like alcohol, trans fat, caffeine and processed foods. Eating the right kind of food greatly affects the body and the brain. Do not skip meals especially breakfast this will contribute more to depressive symptoms like being irritable and sluggish. Aim to cut sugar and refined carbs. Sugary snacks including cookies, cakes, and ‘comfort foods’ like burgers, pasta can lead to mood swings. Choose healthy snack alternatives like nuts and fruits.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD affects both men and women of all ages. It has a neurobiological basis regardless of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic backgrounds. OCD affects people ages 15 to 44. According to research, about 1 in 40 adult Americans (around 2.3% of the entire population) and 1 in 100 children suffer from OCD. Moreover, in a data of the World Health Organization, OCD belongs to the top 20 causes of illness-related disability in the world.
People who suffer from OCD have either obsessive thoughts or compulsive urges that are repetitive in nature. Some may even have both obsessions and compulsions behaviors. OCD is not just having negative thoughts or habits like nail biting. The disorder can greatly affect the person’s performance in school, work, and relationships. Because of the obsessive and uncontrolled behavior, it keeps the person from living a normal life. These thought and actions are beyond the individual’s control.
How to Tell if it’s OCD
Some people develop OCD around their puberty but usually occur during early adulthood. An obsessive thought, for example, is arranging kitchen utensils in an exact manner every morning. On the other hand, a compulsive habit is washing hands for several times after touching something that might contain bacteria. A person with OCD may feel powerless to stop despite its acknowledgment not to do it.
OCD thoughts are obsessions that are persistent and uncontrollable impulses, thoughts, or images that are unwanted and disturbing. In responses to these thoughts, people suffering from OCD still perform certain physical or mental compulsions. Even though knowing that their obsessive thoughts are irrational, they still feel compelled to do these unnecessary rituals. Unfortunately, the reliefs from doing these rituals are temporary; the obsessive-compulsive cycle continues. This often results in helplessness and frustrations.
Symptoms of OCD
Symptoms of OCD include a cycle of obsessive thoughts and a temporary relief of doing so. People with OCD do such behaviors not because they enjoy them but because they cannot control themselves. A lot of people suffering from OCD experience frequent obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.
- A compulsion thought of repetitive behavior or mental act that the person needs to carry out in order to ‘get rid’ of the unpleasant feelings.
- An obsessive feeling associated with the persistent thought that causes anxiety, disgust, or uneasiness.
Causes of OCD
Health care providers cannot pinpoint the exact cause of OCD. Certain areas of the brain have different patterns in people suffering from OCD, but more in-depth research is needed. Based on scientific data, women are more prone than in men. Symptoms often start in teens or young adults. Also, stress plays a big factor in making the symptoms progress. To this day, the biological factor in developing OCD remains unknown.
Several factors can affect people in developing OCD, these include:
- Having symptoms of depression or anxiety
- Family having OCD
- History of physical or sexual abuse
- A traumatic experience in the past
Treatments for OCD
There is still no known cure for OCD, but there are available treatments that may lessen the symptoms. These treatments can help manage the symptoms from interfering with daily life. Health care specialists can prescribe medications, therapy or a combination of both. OCD can significantly interfere with life but here are some of the best treatments for OCD to help keep it under control.
While it is still in the early stages of discovery, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is showing excellent promise in treating OCD as well as all sorts of other mental illnesses. For example, it works well with mental issues like ADHD:
Doctors usually prescribe a type of antidepressant drug called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. This drug can help regularize the balance of the brain chemicals. The effects of SSRIs can take several months to notice but most people benefit from this drug.
Health care providers usually go for the cognitive behavioral therapy of CBT. In this treatment, the session will let the patient face their fears and obsessive thoughts to better manage them. The therapist will try to distinguish the exact cause of the problem to better address them and help patients how to deal with their stressors in a healthier way.
Some health care providers combine these two treatments; SSRI and CBT. There are cases that patients may need to seek out specialists and other forms of unconventional treatment to better suit their needs.
To learn more about TMS for OCD or to set up an appointment, contact us today!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.