Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive procedure that stimulates nerve cells in the brain with short magnetic pulses. A large electromagnetic coil is placed against the scalp which generates focused pulses that pass through the skull and stimulate the cerebral cortex of the brain, a region that regulates mood. The procedure was approved by the FDA in 2008.
TMS is the least invasive of neurostimulation procedures. Some of the others:
- Deep brain stimulation (DBS) involves implanting a medical device known as a “brain pacemaker,” in the chest that sends electrical impulses to specific regions of the brain. Electrodes and electrical leads, which are connected to the pacemaker, are inserted in specific regions of the brain through holes drilled into the skull.
- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) involves applying electrical pulses to the scalp to induce seizures throughout the brain while a person is under general anesthesia. The seizures help relieve depression by promoting the release of serotonin and dopamine.
- And vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) involves the implantation of a small device in the upper left area of the chest which is connected to the vagus nerve in the left side of the neck. A generator in the device sends timed pulses of electricity to the nerve.
A study published in the “Journal of Clinical Psychiatry” reported that half of patients with treatment-resistant depression who underwent TMS experienced relief of symptoms. Approximately 50 percent of the patients maintained significant reduction of depressive symptoms (an average of 62 percent) through repeated sessions of TMS.
“These findings are certainly exciting and cause for (cautious) optimism,” says Karen Swartz, Director of The Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Clinic,” in the Fall 2008 issue of the Depression and Anxiety Bulletin.
TMS is designed to treat a variety of psychiatric and neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke, migraines, tinnitus, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is usually a 40-minute outpatient procedure that is prescribed by a psychiatrist and performed in a psychiatrist’s office. The treatment is typically administered daily for four to six weeks, and costs $200 to $300 per session. I’m not sure if it’s covered by insurance.
I’m very excited about this procedure because it offers hope for those with treatment-resistant depression.
Published originally on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.