The brain is perhaps the most complicated organ in the world. Millions of neurons communicating in countless ways. They work millions of times per second, all ensuring that you live longer than 2 minutes. Complicated systems also have complicated problems, which often need complicated solutions. Yet as we discover more about our brain and how we can affect it, solutions for problems such as depression, tend to get simpler.
So simple that it involves putting a magnet over your head for an hour or less, every day for a month.
What is TMS?
TMS is short for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. As the name states, it’s using electromagnets to stimulate areas beyond the skull, specifically, certain parts of the brain. The TMS machine consists of the electromagnetic coils that deliver the magnetic pulses and the pulse generator. This is a machine that delivers precise amounts of electric current to the magnet.
What is Depression?
It’s feeling sad, but not the everyday sadness you feel when you, for example, dropped your cold ice cream on hot, stressful day. Depression is an intense kind of sadness that can last for days, even weeks. It can affect your way of thinking, making it progressively worse. It can resolve itself into Clinical Depression, a treatable medical condition.
How Does it Work?
It works by activating a pair of electromagnetic coils about half an inch above your scalp. The two coils deliver a relatively weak pulse of electromagnetism, not enough to affect your brain in any significant way. Where the two waves meet, however, causes a significant electromagnetic effect. The effect is strong enough to make your hand or foot twitch when the coil is aimed at the motor area of the brain. Yet, weak enough that it doesn’t cause any significant damage, even after an daily, one-hour exposure over a month.
Using this targeted method, TMS can stimulate certain parts of the brain. People suffering from depression have decreased activity in certain parts of their brain. Specifically, these are the areas that create or govern the creation of Dopamine, a brain chemical that causes happiness. TMS can stimulate these areas to help restore normal function. Think of it as physical therapy on an arm or leg that has been cast for 4 months. TMS “flexes” and “massages” the problem areas, allowing these parts to work normally when they need to.
The full therapy varies depending on the severity of the depression. According to many clinical trials and anonymous patient data, 4-6 weeks of therapy caused improvements about 95% of the patients. The 5% are those unfortunate to have developed adverse effects. This is either through pre-existing conditions or could not handle the therapy due to side effects such as dizziness and nausea.
Continued therapy is encouraged well after the month-long procedure to minimize remission. Though there are still a number of patients who went into remission after stopping the procedure, TMS still holds a candle when it comes to non-invasive or drug therapies for depression.
Humans are the only species on Earth capable of looking into ourselves. Not just in the soul-searching kind of way, but literally opening our heads and studying the brain. Our brain is what makes us tick, what makes us who we are, and nearly all of our body parts are used to either protect or keep our brain running.
Our Brains and Depression
What’s interesting is that our brains are powered by electricity. Our body consumes calories to create energy, which the brain uses to activate its cells and produce the needed signals to keep us alive and make us who we are. Sometimes, the brain fails to function the right way, often caused by infections, abnormalities, or injuries. One such example is depression, a condition where the brain’s altered chemistry causes a person’s thoughts and perception, causing feelings of sadness and disinterest. Sometimes it can be managed using drugs, but medications don’t always work for everyone. Some people are resistant to drugs, others cannot tolerate the drugs itself, and some have persistent or severe depression that won’t fully go away with meds alone.
Through the use of electromagnetism, however, medical researchers and physicians found ways to affect our brain and help treat conditions such as depression. Since several regions of the brain regulate our mood, stimulating these areas could activate neurons in an attempt to awake or realign the circuitry in your brain.
How it Works and What to Expect
Before you start a TMS procedure, you’ll need to do two tests: a physical exam and lab tests to ensure TMS is safe for you. TMS is a safe and harmless procedure, but in the realms of medicine, we always need to be as safe as possible. You could have metal plates in your body from surgery, a pacemaker or similar devices, or foreign objects that could be affected by the magnet.
Then, you’ll undergo a psychiatric evaluation, which is especially important if you are suffering from depression. When all is said and done, you’re ready for TMS therapy.
You’re going to be seated on a chair and the operator will attach sensors to your hand and your head that will monitor your body’s electrical activity. The procedure starts with the physician placing the “coil” over your head activate the machine.
The first step is to activate the coil on certain parts of your brain. When the machine is activated, it will produce a somewhat loud clicking sound and one of your arms or legs may twitch. This procedure is called mapping. Once they are finished with mapping and they have found the area to be stimulated, they will begin the procedure.
The coil will stay on a certain part of your head and the machine will turn the coil on at fixed intervals. The entire procedure may last around 30 to 40 minutes. Afterward, you may feel slight hearing impairment from the loud clicks, and a bit of scalp pain or discomfort. In some cases, you might feel some motion sickness, but all the symptoms will disappear after a few minutes.
The entire therapy may last somewhere between 25 to 40 sessions and is usually done about 5 or 6 days a week.
For more questions about TMS or to schedule a consultation, contact us today.
Depression is a major epidemic not only in the U.S. but globally as well. It has debilitated many of the people who have this condition. These people cannot properly perform daily tasks due to clinical depression. This often leads to serious financial, relationship, business, and work consequences.
A lot of treatments have been developed for depression. These include counselling, physiotherapy, prescribed medications, and even natural, holistic therapies. But, one effective way to manage and treat depression is called the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation System (TMS System). It is more often referred to simply as TMS.
What Is A Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation System (TMS System)?
The TMS system is a comprehensive procedure of stimulating specific brain regions. During these procedures, a coil is placed near the patient’s head. Through electromagnetic induction, the coil undergoes through the production of small electric currents to stimulate targeted regions of the brain. A stimulator (or pulse generator) is linked to the coil. The stimulator is used to deliver its electric current for stimulation.
TMS is usually utilized for measuring brain and muscle connection. This measure is used to evaluate damage from movement disorders, stroke, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and motor neuron diseases. It is also used to measure the damage from the spinal cord and facial and cranial nerves.
What Are The Benefits Of TMS?
TMS is a non-invasive procedure used to treat depression. The only FDA-cleared and FDA-approved brand is NeuroStar TMS Therapy. Below are the benefits you can gain from using this system:
- It is an effective treatment for patients who do not satisfactorily respond to prior antidepressant medications.
- It has an impressive result in clinical trials. 50% of patients had major improvements with regards to their symptoms. Plus, 33.33% of clients experienced complete resolution of their symptoms.
- It doesn’t result to certain side effects common in other types of therapy. These side effects include nausea, dry mouth, sedation, sexual dysfunction, and weight gain. This leads to increased patient comfort and disposition. And it further provides significant patient improvement exponentially.
- It has a higher benefit/ risk ration in comparison to other alternatives (e.g. prescription medications).
- People who undergo the TMS system are associated with less use of drugs, doctor visits, and hospitalizations.
- It is a non-invasive procedure. Patients do not undergo anesthesia, surgery, or any type of sedation.
- TMS results to less magnetic exposure compared to patients who undergo MRI.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation System is great for those who have clinical depression. The only side effect of this system is a mild discomfort in the scalp or area of the head stimulated by the coil. Seizures are rarely associated with patients using this therapy as well.
If you have a friend or a family member who experiences major debilitating depression, TMS can be an option. It is best to talk to your doctor (or any professional) in order to know the eligibility for TMS therapy. If you want to know more information regarding TMS therapy, contact us with any questions or to make an appointment.
Since the 1980s, transcranial magnetic stimulation has been used to study the nerve fibers that carry information about movements from the brain to the spinal cord and on to the muscles. In the late 1990s, physicians began to explore the therapeutic potential of transcranial magnetic stimulation for the treatment of a variety of diseases, with depression being the most thoroughly studied to date. Since then, more than 20 randomized, controlled trials studying transcranial magnetic stimulation as a treatment for depression have been published by investigators throughout the world.
NeuroStar TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) Therapy was FDA-cleared in October 2008 for patients suffering from depression who have not achieved satisfactory improvement from prior antidepressant medications. Using pulsed magnetic fields, transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy stimulates the part of the brain thought to be involved with mood regulation. TMS Therapy is a short outpatient procedure, performed in your psychiatrist’s office under his or her supervision while you remain awake and alert. The typical initial course of treatment is about 37 minutes daily over 4-6 weeks.
About NeuroStar TMS Therapy
The NeuroStar TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) Therapy system, developed by Neuronetics, is the first and only non-systemic and non-invasive depression treatment cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for patients who have not benefited from prior antidepressant treatment.
NeuroStar TMS Therapy is:
- Non-invasive, meaning that it does not involve surgery. It does not require any anesthesia or sedation, as the patient remains awake and alert during the treatment.
- Non-systemic, meaning that it is not taken by mouth and does not circulate in the bloodstream throughout the body.
Through a magnetic coil, the NeuroStar TMS Therapy system generates highly concentrated, magnetic fields which turn on and off very rapidly. These magnetic fields are the same type and strength as those produced by a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine.
The treatment coil is applied to the head above the left prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is involved with mood regulation, and therefore is the location where the magnetic fields are focused. These magnetic fields do not directly affect the whole brain; they only reach about 2-3 centimeters into the brain directly beneath the treatment coil. As these magnetic fields move into the brain, they produce very small electrical currents. These electrical currents activate cells within the brain which are thought to release neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Since depression is thought to be the result of an imbalance of these chemicals in the brain, TMS can restore that balance and, thus, relieve depression.