About Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a treatment approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for patients suffering from depression who have not achieved satisfactory improvement from prior antidepressant treatment.
- Is an outpatient procedure performed in a psychiatrist’s office
- Is non-invasive, meaning that it does not involve surgery
- Does not require any anesthesia or sedation; the patient remains awake and alert during the treatment
- Is focal and non-systemic, meaning it does not circulate in the bloodstream like medications
The typical initial treatment course consists of at least 5 treatments per week over a 4-6 week period for an average of 20-30 total treatments. Each treatment session lasts between 20 and 40 minutes.
How does TMS work?
Using an electromagnetic coil, TMS generates highly concentrated magnetic fields which turn on and off very rapidly. These magnetic fields are the same type and strength as those produced by a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine.
The treatment coil is applied to the head above the left prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is involved with mood regulation, and therefore is the location where the magnetic fields are focused. These magnetic fields do not directly affect the whole brain; they only reach about 2-3 centimeters into the brain directly beneath the treatment coil. As these magnetic fields move into the brain, they produce very small electrical currents. These electrical currents activate cells within the brain which are thought to release neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Since depression is thought to be the result of an imbalance of these chemicals in the brain, TMS can restore that balance and, thus, relieve depression.
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