Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS sends electromagnetic currents near the frontal lobe of the brain to stimulate brain activity. The medical community had used brain stimulation for years as an effective treatment for various psychiatric disorders, especially depressive and anxiety disorders.
As a non-invasive medical procedure that uses a magnetic field to stimulate nerve cells in the brain, it remains one of the safest therapies to treat various health problems. Due to its efficiency and effectiveness, recent studies had explored other possibilities of TMS therapy to other types of health problems like addiction.
The US Food and Drug Administration of FDA approved TMS as a safe and alternative treatment for depression. Today, more scientists explore the possibility of other medical uses of TMS.
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The Study Behind the Theory
The results show a promising clinical data indicating that TMS can help people recover from addiction. Neuroscientists Antonello Bonci and Billy Chen from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in Baltimore spearheaded a study of rats trained to uncontrollably seek out cocaine. The rats are very much addicted that they tolerate electric shocks just to get their fixes. However, when researchers stimulated the rat’s brain using TMS, the animals were able to get out of their addiction.
In a journal published in Nature, Bonci and other scientists suggested that stimulating the prefrontal cortex can help addicts end their substance abuse. TMS can effectively target that area of the brain. As a non-invasive procedure stimulating neural activity, it might help with addiction.
There are several more studies conducted each year to support TMS therapy as a safe and effective alternative treatment method for various illnesses.
During TMS procedure, an electromagnetic coil is placed on the scalp near the forehead. The electromagnet delivers a magnetic pulse to stimulate nerve cells in the brain associated with controlling mood and depression – the two main emotional factor triggering addiction.
Repeated Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Repeated Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (sometimes referred to as rTMS) uses a coil that emits a magnetic wave that passes through the skull. This triggers an electrical field that can alter brain cells activity. This varies from low frequency about 1 hertz to a high frequency of 10 to 20 Hertz. Health care professionals study the strength based on the patient’s motor threshold, which is the needed amount of current that makes fingers or leg muscles move when a TMS session starts.
This procedure had been proved effective for treating depression. TMS affects the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which affects the limbic system, an area of the brain associated with addiction. Stimulating and regulating brain nerve cells in these parts can help decrease symptoms of addiction.
The subcortical generally the medial prefrontal cortex, modulates addiction but needing deeper stimulation using rTMS. Studies show that using H-coil and higher frequency stimulation with 120% motor threshold will yield better results.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, TMS show positive promise as an alternative addiction treatment.
Digging Deeper into the Brain
Still, TMS research needs to dig deeper into the brain to targets more areas of the brain. Usually, doctors use “figure 8 coil” but others use “H coil” which can reach deeper parts of the brain.
Scientists have tested the theory on nicotine dependence, one of the most studied forms of addiction. On several research studies, stimulating the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, (DLPFC) using “figure 8 coil” eventually decreases nicotine cravings. However, other studies show that nicotine dependence was totally eliminated. In alcohol dependence, TMS used in high-frequency targeting DLPFC showed promising effect.
Different studies consistently show TMS as a safe and effective tool for addiction treatment that carries no significant side effects.