Brain Stimulation Therapies: Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)





When a person suffers from an anxiety disorder, depression, or another kind of mental health condition, the initial treatments administered to this individual typically come in the form of medications. However, even the most effective medications won’t produce perfect results for every patient. Each person reacts differently when given medication. While the medication may be highly effective for some people, it could be entirely ineffective for others.

At times, the medication won’t provide the kind of relief that the patient is looking for. In this situation, consider other treatment options that will help relieve the symptoms that you’re currently experiencing as a result of your mental health disorder. Among the most popular of these treatments is TMS, which is a special brain stimulation therapy that can stimulate the nerve cells in a person’s brain. This article aims to define TMS and focus on its benefits, which should help you determine if the treatment is right for you and will reduce the symptoms of your mental health condition.

What Is RTMS?

Are you wondering what rTMS is? Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) is a treatment commonly used to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression. Using TMS for anxiety and similar mental health conditions works by stimulating certain nerve cells within the brain. Before providing treatment, a doctor positions an electromagnetic coil on the patient’s forehead. Next, pulses of magnetic energy are sent into the brain.

As a result, it’s possible to control moods and relieve severe symptoms. A doctor identifies the amount of energy that’s needed before providing the treatment in question. Because of the potency of this treatment, it’s usually given after finding that medications are ineffective. This treatment is also regularly used if psychotherapy was ineffective at treating mental health disorders.

Science Behind Brain Stimulation Therapies

This kind of stimulation therapy applies magnetic pulses to a person’s brain through a coil. Electric currents are sent to the coil, which creates the magnetic field generator for the treatment. As a result, the magnetic field will create an electrical current directly in the brain. Each patient requires a distinct magnetic field pattern, which is why this treatment uses numerous coil types. The pulses of electrical currents happen in succession to ensure that the target area in the brain is effectively altered. Furthermore, the timing of these pulses determines what alterations occur.

How This Non-Invasive Procedure Works

When looking to define TMS, this procedure works by positioning an electromagnetic coil on the patient’s scalp. The coil delivers a magnetic pulse to the brain that stimulates surrounding nerve cells. The magnetic pulses target cells that play a part in depression and mood control. As a result, the pulses activate and rejuvenate areas with decreased activity. Along with using TMS for anxiety and depression, this therapy also treats:

Benefits of Brain Stimulation Therapy

There is a range of benefits available with brain stimulation therapy. When using this therapy for depression, it’s ideal for anyone who has yet to feel relief from medications. The therapy stimulates the nerve cells within the prefrontal cortex that cause appetite changes and low energy levels, which improves the activity in the area and reduces depression symptoms.  When someone experiences Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), the prefrontal cortex suffers from increase inactivity. Moreover, the hyper-connectivity between the striatum and prefrontal cortex brings about severe symptoms of OCD.

TMS can inhibit this portion of the brain to reduce the symptoms of OCD. If you want to avoid using medications for a mental health condition, TMS has similar success rates. Response rates for patients who suffer from depression are as high as 64 percent. Additional research is necessary to determine how effective Transcranial magnetic stimulation is for other conditions.

Common Side Effects of Brain Stimulation Therapies

While brain stimulation therapy is practically harmless, there are some side effects you should be aware of. The most common side effects are mild and usually dissipate after a few therapy sessions. These side effects can include headaches, scalp discomfort, tingling, and twitching within the facial muscles. Medical professionals can reduce symptoms by changing the amount of stimulation and by administering pain medication. Severe side effects are relatively rare and can include:

  • Hearing loss
  • The mania for individuals who suffer from bipolar disorder
  • Seizures

As such, it’s important to speak with your doctor before treatment to make sure you’re aware of the risks.

Who Is a Candidate for RTMS?

If you suffer from clinical depression, an anxiety disorder, or a similar mental health condition, you’ll likely be a good candidate for the rTMS treatment. For you to obtain this kind of brain stimulation therapy, you mustn’t currently have a neural implant or a history of seizures. This may be the ideal treatment for you if:

  • Medication has yet to provide the kind of relief you’re looking for – people who suffer from anxiety and depression don’t always find relief from medications. To that end, rTMS could be a solution that produces results.
  • Medication has caused negative side effects – Antidepressants and similar medications can create adverse side effects. The non-invasive aspect of brain stimulation therapy ensures that side effects are kept to a minimum.
  • You’re unable to take medication because of pregnancy – Most antidepressant medications are forbidden during a pregnancy, which isn’t true with brain stimulation therapy

How to Prepare for Therapy

Before obtaining rTMS, a physical examination and psychiatric evaluation are likely necessary. The psychiatric evaluation involves a discussion on the mental health condition that you suffer from. During the physical examination, tell the doctor if you:

  • Have had previous rTMS treatment
  • Are currently pregnant
  • Have a metallic or implanted medical device in your body
  • Have serious brain damage from injury or illness
  • Are currently taking vitamins, herbal supplements, or other medications
  • Experience frequent headaches
  • Have more than one mental health disorder
  • Have a history of seizures

How to Prepare Before Initial Treatment

Because Transcranial magnetic stimulation is non-invasive and doesn’t require any anesthesia, preparation requirements are minimal. For the first appointment, consider having someone drive you home following the treatment. You should also check if your insurance policy covers this kind of brain stimulation therapy.

What to Expect During the First Treatment Session

This therapy takes place in a clinic or doctor’s office. The effectiveness of this treatment depends on the number of sessions you attend. Sessions are typically carried out daily for around 4-6 weeks. During your first session, your doctor must identify the correct placement of the electromagnetic coil. Furthermore, this session should last around 60 minutes. In some cases, the doctor will provide earplugs that you can wear while the treatment is ongoing.

When treatment begins, your doctor will switch the electromagnetic coil on and off to produce concurrent pulses. You’ll likely experience a tapping sensation as well as a clicking sound. It’s during this initial treatment that the doctor performs the mapping process to identify the number of necessary pulses. The pulses act as your dose for brain stimulation therapy. Some patients require a higher dose than others.

What to Expect From Additional Treatment Sessions

During any subsequent treatments, you can bypass the dosage and coil placement process. While the initial treatment takes around one hour to finish, additional treatment sessions should last for 30-40 minutes. You’ll remain awake during the entire treatment and shouldn’t experience any adverse side effects. However, scalp discomfort occurs from time to time. Whenever the machine is on, you’ll experience the same clicking sounds and tapping that occur during the first treatment.

Possible Results

Once you obtain brain stimulation therapy daily for 4-6 weeks, you should see notable results for your mental health disorder. If rTMS is effective for you, the depression symptoms you experience may improve or dissipate completely. Keep in mind that studies for this therapy still occur regularly. Once scientists have a better understanding of the rTMS technique and the best areas to stimulate in the brain, the treatment itself could become more effective. Unless your anxiety or depression goes away completely, consider seeking ongoing treatment even after the brain stimulation therapy. Additional treatments may help you obtain long-lasting results.

Montare Behavioral Health Can Help You Recover With Brain Stimulation Therapy 

If you suffer from an anxiety disorder or a similar mental health condition, Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation may be what you need to start effectively treating the symptoms that you experience.

Here at Montare Behavioral Health, we treat a wide range of mental health disorders, which include everything from anxiety and depression to personality and mood disorders. Contact us today to learn more about TMS therapy.