While individuals have been studying the relationship between electric currents and the brain since the 1700s, successful medical applications did not come around until 1985, when Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) first benefitted a patient. From there, several clinical studies began on the effect of TMS on mental disorders, most commonly depression that does not respond to medication. In 2008, it was finally approved by the FDA and became available to the public.
The process is relatively simple. The brain operates by sending electrical signals from nerve to nerve. If something is wrong with these signals, TMS can send more signals in to hopefully fix the problem. While this may sound scary and unusual, the treatment has a high success rate and results in little to no side effects. If you suffer from a mental disorder that has not been improved by any other treatment, TMS or Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (dTMS), a more intense form of TMS, may be your best option.
What Occurs in a TMS Session
When a doctor decides a patient’s best treatment option is TMS or dTMS, it’s time to start weekly sessions. According to Butler Hospital, the patient will be seated and reclined in a comfortable chair. Anything metal – jewelry, hair clips, etc. – will be removed from the patient. Then, the operating physician will place a metal coil against the patient’s head, focused on a certain part of the brain, depending on the disorder the patient is suffering from. Then, the doctor will choose the intensity of the magnetic pulses and turn on the machine. From here, the process takes about 30-40 minutes, of which the patient must try to keep his or her head as still as possible, but is allowed to listen to music or read a book to pass the time. During the treatment, the patient will only feel slight taps on the treated area as the pulses enter into the skull. Afterwards, the patient can simply return to everyday activities with no recovery time needed. This is the same process used in Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, only with more intensity.
How Does TMS Work?
As stated by NeuroStar, the machine used in TMS or dTMS sessions creates electromagnetic pulses that are sent into the brain through a metal coil. This helps to stimulate the amount of communication within the brain, which is crippled in patients with mental disorders. The brain uses electrical signals to send neurotransmitters from one part to another. If these signals are working properly, they regulate mood, meaning emotions remain stabilized and the brain reacts correctly to the world around it. If these signals aren’t working properly, different parts of the brain can’t communicate with each other, causing an unbalanced mood seen in most mental disorders. TMS works to add more electric signals, which boosts the brain and increases the amount of neurotransmitters being sent around. When done often enough, the brain will begin to send these signals and neurotransmitters on its own.
This works best on major depression because the brain’s activity is at its lowest point. Usually, medications have a low success rate on depression because they simply are not strong enough stimulate the brain. With TMS, a direct electromagnetic current can be sent into the brain to immediately cause more activity.
Improvements with TMS
TMS sessions are usually done once a day, five days a week, for four to six weeks. Patients don’t usually experience improvement until around halfway through the treatment, but this varies greatly depending on the patient. Some experience relief after the first week, while others need more treatment than average to help symptoms. However, almost every patient experiences improvement at some point. NeuroStar cites that out of 800 patients, one in two responded to treatment and one in three is completely relieved of their symptoms.
As for side effects, there are very little. Because only one area of the brain is treated, only that area is at risk for side effects. The rest of the brain and the body is completely safe. Some patients will experience a temporary headache in the treated area, usually within the first couple weeks of treatment. During clinical trials, less than 5% of participants dropped out of treatment because of the side effects. Overall, TMS is extremely successful and causes little to no pain.
If you suffer from major depression, OCD, MCI or the inability to stop smoking, and have tried medication after medication with no success, talk to your doctor about TMS or Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation treatment. Many have experienced a full recovery after only a few weeks and you could too.
Westside Neurotherapeutics offers dTMS treatments Los Angeles. For more information, contact them by phone at 310.946.0008 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.