Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a type of noninvasive brain stimulation therapy. TMS uses electromagnetic pulses to stimulate nerve cells in specific parts of the brain which may improve symptoms of neurological or psychiatric disorders. TMS has primarily been utilized to treat depression. It’s had success in treatment resistant depression (those who don’t respond to medicine or therapy) and was FDA approved in 2008. There is also some profound evidence that TMS may help alleviate other disorders, like OCD, anxiety and Parkinson’s disease.
Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)
TMS involves delivering repetitive magnetic pulses, so it’s called repetitive TMS or rTMS. During an rTMS session, an electromagnetic coil is placed against your scalp near your forehead. The electromagnet painlessly delivers a magnetic pulse that stimulates nerve cells in the region of your brain involved in mood and depression. It’s thought to activate regions of the brain that have decreased activity in depression. Though the biology of why rTMS works isn’t completely understood, the stimulation appears to impact how the brain is working, which in turn seems to ease depression symptoms and improve mood. Each TMS session lasts around 15 minutes and a typical course of treatment is 36 sessions. The success rate of TMS for depression is promising. Response rates for depression are between 30 to 65 percent and this is mostly in a population whereby antidepressants have had minimal impact.
TMS can be utilized for treatment of:
- Depression (FDA approved in 2008)
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (FDA approved in 2018)
- Generalized Anxiety Disoder
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Stroke rehabilitation
- Parkinsons disease
TMS has found primary use to treat major depressive disorder (MDD). TMS is recommended for those who haven’t found relief from medication and psychotherapy (treatment-resistant depression). Approximately 30 percent of people with depression don’t respond to medication and/or therapy. Depression is linked to reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex which can help explain fatigue and appetite changes as common depressive symptoms. TMS may help by stimulating nerve cells and increasing activity in prefrontal cortex.