Many experts now consider depression as a major health issue. It affects more than 14 million American adults every year. Medical experts believed that it will be the second leading cause of disability in the world by 2020. About two-thirds who suffered an episode will at least have another episode during their lifetime. Depression is an incapacitating illness and treatments methods are often ineffective or intolerable because of its adverse side effects.
Current antidepressant medications and therapies failed to at least a third of people suffering from depressive disorders leaving them with inadequate treatment options.
TMS as an Alternative Depression Treatment
TMS therapy is a relatively new non-invasive procedure that delivers highly focused magnetic pulses to a specific brain region called the left prefrontal cortex. It stimulates the inactive areas of the brain associated with depression. These electromagnetic pulses are similar to the magnetic field of an MRI procedure. The rapid bursts of magnetic energy passed through a coil and directly to the brain excite neurons which rewire the brain to improve mood behaviors.
As a non-invasive procedure, TMS does not involve any major surgeries, insertion of intravenous lines or any kind of medications that may harm the body. There is no sedation or anesthesia involved during TMS session treatment.
An Effective Treatment
Over recent years, experts have discovered newer treatment parameters and more precise targeting locations for TMS. Several studies show that TMS can be an effective treatment not only during the course of 4 to 8 weeks sessions but also having these improvements persist beyond that time.
How TMS Works
TMS uses a computer program connected to a small electromagnetic coil which delivers short but rapid bursts of magnetic pulses directly on the left prefrontal cortex of the brain. However powerful these electromagnetic pulses, it does not affect the entire brain. The electromagnetic pulses of TMS can reach about 2 to 3 centimeters into the brain right underneath the treatment coil.
This treatment coil is placed on top of the patient’s head that believed to be linked with mood regulation.
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As electromagnetic pulses reach deeper into the brain, they produce tiny small electrical currents. These electromagnetic currents activate neuron within the brain which believed to release important neurotransmitters.
In October 2008, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of TMS treatment for the major depressive disorder. This revolutionary treatment option received approval for its safe and effective therapy, particularly for treatment-resistant patients.
One of the studies about TMS shows that the procedure was a significant alternative method to preclude impending relapse in 32 of 38 patients or about 84%. This strongly suggests that the efficacy of TMS is seen in the majority of acute treatment-resistant patients. The reintroduction of TMS later in the medical management of depression can safely and effectively prevent relapse.
No Major Side Effects
TMS does not have any major side effects unlike its counterparts of conventional depression treatments. This new innovation does not produce common side effects like memory loss, sleepiness, sexual problems, or weight gain. It serves as an ideal major depression treatment because it does not elicit side effects of conventional medications like drug abuse.
As a non-systemic procedure, it does not require any sedation or implantation of other depression treatments like those of deep brain stimulation.
Today, TMS is widely acclaimed for its treatment of major depressive disorder but other studies are underway to prove its efficacy to other mental disorders. Different types of research are being conducted each year to explore possibilities of TMS as a treatment for a wide range of different brain disorders like Generalized Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Cognitive Impairments, and Tinnitus.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is a mental disease that is led by -as the name lays out- obsession and compulsions. These obsessions are intrusive thoughts, urges, and triggers that get in the way of everyday life. It can get so extreme that it not only intrudes, but can completely control a person’s entire life.
Intruding Thoughts and Compulsions
While most people have compulsions and intrusive thoughts, we can usually tame them on our own. Even the more persistent thoughts can be tamed by simply engaging the thought and creating closure. With OCD, these thoughts cannot easily be tamed. The brain’s own warning system triggers out of their control. There’s no clear logic to the impulses, making treatment not necessarily difficult, just complex.
Psychotherapy is one option to take to figure out a person’s triggers or the source of their psychological conditions. This therapy can train the brain to combat their impulses by gradually introducing them to their fears.
TMS to Treat OCD
There’s a new way to treat OCD that does not need drugs. It’s the non-invasive procedure of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. It is a simple process, but the effect is complex.
With Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, an electromagnet is placed on a patient’s head. A machine generates finely tuned charges electricity to activate the magnet. It then delivers precise electromagnetic waves in pulses.
The electromagnetism excites neurons, causing them to either fire or react as if they have received a signal. One of the common reactions is the ticking sound you feel and the tapping sensation on your head. The strength of the electromagnetic pulse is increased until they see a vivid reaction like involuntary blinking or light twitching of your fingers. The procedure is painless, with most of the discomfort only due to the “fear of the syringe needle” effect.
When the neurons are activated, it can trigger patterns your brain naturally makes on its own. This includes the natural release of Dopamine, also known as the “Reward and Satisfaction Chemical”. This effect is one of the reasons TMS is used to treat persistent and severe depression.
Clinical trials have shown success in treating OCD. Present clinical trials are paving the way into turning TMS into a proper treatment. They are testing the treatment by exploring the brain and finding out where the “inhibitory” part of the brain is.
OCD is an “excitatory” disease. This means that the brain abnormally activates neurons that cause the compulsions and obsessions. By stimulating the inhibitory parts, it can help the brain release the chemicals required to slow and halt the “excitatory” effects of OCD.
The clinical trials were so far successful. They produced relevant data that suggests stimulation of the inhibitory functions of the brain helped suppress the impulses and inhibitions. Like psychotherapy, TMS is training the inhibitory parts of the brain to work normally. This will allow the brain to achieve proper homeostasis or proper chemical balance.
Research into the brain’s inner workings is advancing every day. We keep discovering and rediscovering methods, and even discover new parts of the brain which we thought didn’t exist. Combined with our exponential advancement in technology, TMS procedures can address more precise parts of the brain. Eventually, we can find a way to bring new life to people shackled by their mental diseases.
To learn more or to find out if TMS is right for you, Contact Us at your earliest convenience.