Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS is a simple technique that uses a small electromagnetic current. This is usually, placed at the front region of the brain. Doctors place a magnetic coil on the scalp where the magnetic field can pass safely and painlessly to the nerve cells in the brain.
The coil sometimes resembles like a large spoon or a paddle which a technician either holds or places in a stand in a metal frame. As the current passes, it stimulates the brain region associated with depression. The result can improve the overall mood of the patient.
TMS and Its Benefits
TMS therapy can produce positive effects through stimulating the patient’s brain, including:
- Improved attention
- Enhancing Perception
- Movement control
- Higher thought processes like executive control and memory skills
How Does TMS Work?
The magnetic current passing from the coil to the head stimulates the brain and temporarily alters its normal function. In a way, TMS therapy can enhance mood and behavior by stimulating brain regions that control specific bodily functions.
For instance, the front of the brain is often related to depression. Stimulating that region with proper magnetic pulses can relieve symptoms associated with that illness. The same principle applies when stimulating an area that can produce opposite effects.
Many studies support this notion thus far and have yielded positive results. Because of that, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of TMS therapy in treating symptoms of depression in 2008. Clinical studies show patients suffering from depression range from 30% to 50% of an improvement. TMS therapy has since become available as a common psychiatric treatment.
Nevertheless, doctors can only recommend TMS therapy for patients who:
- Do not respond well to psychotherapy
- Failed on their previous cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Have recurrent unsuccessful trials with antidepressant medications
In order to combat depression, therapy sessions can last for weeks, which can become rather costly. Some insurance companies will cover the cost, though. TMS also comes with its share of issues, especially when taking prescription drugs. These can include:
- Fainting and seizures when patients are taking certain drugs
- Neck Pain
- Scalp discomfort
TMS research suggests that emotional problems reside at an unconscious level but can be triggered using electromagnetic pulses with relatively few long term side effects. Since emotions come from an unconscious level, we are all unaware of the immediate factors behind them. Still, depression is often associated with an area of the brain that shows decreased activity.
TMS, when administered in rapid succession, helps activate parts of the brain associated with the mental illness being remedied. Stimulating these regions can have an immediate impact on improving a patient’s mood. Doctors target these areas by sending out magnetic pulses to stimulate them.
Some of the benefits of TMS therapy include:
- It’s the only FDA approved non-invasive therapy for treating depression
- Patients show positive improvement after TMS therapy
- Several studies discovered TMS therapy yields more improvement compared other treatments
- Patients who go through TMS therapy have fewer hospital and doctor visits. They also need less antidepressant medication
- Even when patients react poorly in their previous therapies, they still have a 50% better chance recovering from depression