by Vinay Parameswara
Those suffering from depression may benefit from transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)-approved, non-invasive medical technology that applies magnetic pulses to soothe and stimulate nerve cells in the region of the brain involved in mood control and depression. The procedure has proven benefits, does not have any problematic side effects, needs no anesthesia and can be done in comfort at a doctor’s office.
The magnetic pulses may also activate regions of the brain that have decreased activity in people with depression. The pulses generated are of the same kind and strength as those generated by magnetic resonance imagining (MRI). These magnetic pulses stimulate key areas of the brain that are underactive in patients with depression, and improve these symptoms of depression.
When people that suffer from severe depression are unable to experience full relief of their symptoms with medication, they are often prescribed electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Although effective, ECT has produced significant side effects.
Repetitive TMS strengthens circuits in the prefrontal cortex similar to the way weightlifting stimulates and strengthens muscles. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain, which is used for a wide variety of functions including impulse control, organization of emotional reactions and personality. By way of example, while one set of bicep curls does little to build muscle mass, continued bicep curls over a period of weeks will cause those muscles to bulk up and get stronger. It is very much the same with repetitive TMS. The magnetic field produces currents in the neurons in the prefrontal cortex, but daily, repeated applications of the field are necessary to produce an effect.
Many patients feel little or no change until after a few weeks of treatment, but then depression starts to lift; a consequence of a stronger, bulked-up prefrontal cortex. New neurons are being made and new circuits are turned on, bringing much needed relief to the patient.
The History of TMS
The science behind electrical stimulation of the nerves has been around since the 1790s. Luigi Galvani and Alessandro Volta, two Italian academics interested in Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Can Lead the Way Out of Depression by Vinay Parameswara electricity, helped to push the world forward by experimenting with bioelectricity. They discovered that the nerves in our bodies were electrical conductors that carried information within the nervous system. However, it wasn’t until 1831 when English scientist Michael Faraday’s discoveries about the fundamental principles of electromagnetic induction, that the road to the first TMS was paved.
In 2003, TMS was approved for treatment of depression in Canada, and in 2008, the FDA cleared TMS therapy as a treatment for depression.
TMS has been shown to be a safe, easy and well-tolerated procedure that can be an effective treatment for patients with depression who have not benefitted from antidepressant medications or cannot tolerate antidepressant medications due to side effects. Researchers continue to investigate TMS for a number of other neurological conditions, including chronic pain. Today, many insurance companies, including Medicare, cover the treatment costs.
Vinay Parameswara is a board-certified internist and owner of Oak Hill Wellness Clinic, a practice focused on educating patients on all modalities of treatment. For more information, call 512- 892-0300 or visit Oakhill360Health.com.