Because smoking tobacco is a deadly habit, there’s no shortage of products and methods available to kick the habit. From patches, nicotine gum, and medications to inhalers, nicotine nasal sprays and even laser therapy, smokers have a wide variety of cessation products from which to choose. A relatively new approach that is showing promise in the fight to help smokers quit is Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (dTMS), a noninvasive technique that utilizes electromagnetic pulses to stimulate specific areas of the brain.
What is Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation?
Originally launched by Brainsway as an innovative approach for treating depression, dTMS was approved by the FDA in 2008 and has shown to have positive effects in treating Alzheimer’s disease, autism, bipolar disorder, stroke rehabilitation, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
What Causes People to Smoke?
Many neurological and psychiatric disorders (e.g. addictions and depression) are associated with abnormal nerve activity deep within the brain – areas approximately 5-7 cm beneath the scalp – that cannot be affected directly. This area is the insula, and is often referred to as “the hidden island of addiction.”
How Can dTMS Help People Stop Smoking?
Chronic uses of nicotine or drugs can trigger the release of dopamine, known as the “reward chemical,” which will push the person to repeat their addictive actions, thus creating a vicious cycle. The addictive effects of smoking, for example, are caused primarily by the properties of nicotine in the nervous system. In essence, the body becomes accustomed to having nicotine in it, and the person experiences a diminished ability to control their decision-making process.
Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (deep TMS or dTMS) is used to manipulate these regions indirectly by transmitting magnetic pulses through an electromagnetic coil in a specialized cap that fits snugly to the patient’s scalp. The electronic pulses, which trigger an electric field in the underlying brain tissue, are emitted at a low frequency of 1-10 kHz.
Although research is continuing, recent studies have shown positive results for dTMS treatment. One study in particular [Dinur-Klein et al., In Press] tested 115 participants who smoked at least 20 cigarettes daily and had failed previous forms of cessation approaches. For 13 daily sessions, participants were randomly selected to receive high-frequency, low-frequency or sham (very weak or brief) stimulation. The coils used in the study were equipped with a positioning system (a helmet encased the coils that was enabled to rotate) and a cooling system to maintain temperature in the coils throughout the process.
Those who received the high-frequency stimulation significantly reduced their cigarette and nicotine addiction. During the study, their response rate was 81%. The after-treatment abstinence rate was 44%, and the complete abstinence rate in a follow-up six (6) months later was 33%.
It should be noted that the precise time between each treatment and the last cigarette smoked was not controlled, which may have masked the treatment’s effect on craving levels. Also, dropout levels for the study were high. The researchers also confirmed that follow-up interviews with participants were completed via telephone rather than in person.
How is dTMS Performed?
Patients seeking to deep TMS therapy treatment must be recommended by a medical doctor. It is an outpatient form of therapy lasting about 25-40 minutes per session and requires no form of sedation. dTMS treatment programs are individualized, but last on average four to six weeks. A treatment coil is placed over the left prefrontal cortex, and the magnetic fields are then activated in a series of short bursts. Other than patients experiencing a light tapping sensation through the specialized cap, there are no known side effects, and patients can continue their normal activity immediately after the procedure.
Relying on the power already stored in our brains, dTMS is a powerful arrow for any quiver in the ongoing fight to stop smoking. Westside Neurotherapeutics offers dTMS treatments Los Angeles. For more information, contact them by phone at 310.946.0008 or visit us online at www.westsideneurotherapeutics.com.