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.