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.
The idea of placing magnets on your head may seem odd as a medical procedure. But, nowadays, it is a method used to treat many mental conditions. This treatment, like any other therapies looking to treat mental illnesses, doesn’t offer an absolute guarantee for success. So, how successful is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation?
How TMS Works
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is exactly that. They place a high power electromagnet on key places on your scalp or forehead. This is to deliver magnetic pulses that affect your brain cells. There is no surgery, needles, cutting, or any other invasive procedures involved other than maybe a little adhesive. TMS stimulates certain areas of the brain, targeted to treat depression. According to some research, it also has potential to treat autism or Asperger’s.
An Alternative to Pills
People who seek alternatives to dangerous mood-controlling medications can now turn to Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. In some cases, people who suffer depression do not respond to psychiatric drugs. Some cannot tolerate the drugs or find other holistic methods ineffective. In other cases, patients cannot use drugs to treat their conditions. An example would be pilots or other people who need to be functional while under treatment and cannot take psychoactive drugs.
Depression is a gripping condition. It cannot easily be detected due to a person’s inclination to isolate themselves. The condition can go undetected due to ignorance and misinformation of people around the affected person. This is often the case for adolescents who cannot tell depression from the normal roller-coaster emotions of puberty. If left unattended, depression can lead to further damages to the person quality of life. In severe cases, it can end in suicide or other permanent damage.
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TMS Success Rate
According to most clinics that offer TMS, the success rate of treating persistent depression with TMS range between 70% to 80%. In severe cases of depression, the full treatment has a 60% to 75% success rate. This is to fully treat or significantly reduce the symptoms. The treatment involves numerous sessions, lasting 25 or more procedures. The effect is gradual and may come with some side effects, but all can be managed. Once a patient reaches about half the recommended treatment cycles, dramatic improvements can be seen.
The success rates are not just from the treatment alone. Like all manner of conditions such as addiction, maintenance is key. The success rate is solid, but maintenance is what keeps remission at bay.
Nearly 20% of patients who undergo this treatment do not produce successful results. But for those who did find the treatment effective, their lives have been changed for the better. Their days in the dark have brightened to a colorful new perspective. They are given hope for better living that everyone else experiences naturally. This chance of a better life reflects how TMS can offer a positive impact.
Still, TMS is still a young technology. Further clinical trials are done every day to see how else TMS can improve and affect the brain. There are clinical trials already set to try TMS treatment on people suffering from constant migraines. Further research can only tell how we can benefit from TMS and how the therapy can be used more effectively.
To set up an appointment for TMS in Florida or to simply ask any questions you might have about the procedure, feel free to contact us anytime.