(Starting May 2021 at Our Corte Madera Office)
Psychiatrists & Psychologists located in San Francisco, CA, San Jose, CA, Palo Alto, CA, Berkeley, CA, & Marin County, CA
Since the 1980s, transcranial magnetic stimulation has been used to study the nerve fibers that carry information about movements from the brain to the spinal cord and on to the muscles. In the late 1990s, physicians began to explore the therapeutic potential of transcranial magnetic stimulation for the treatment of a variety of diseases, with depression being the most thoroughly studied to date. Since then, more than 100 randomized, controlled trials studying transcranial magnetic stimulation as a treatment for depression have been conducted by investigators throughout the world. TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) Therapy was FDA-cleared in October 2008 for patients suffering from depression who have not achieved satisfactory improvement from prior antidepressant medications. Using pulsed magnetic fields, transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy stimulates the part of the brain thought to be involved with mood regulation.
TMS Therapy is a short outpatient procedure, performed in your psychiatrist’s office under his or her supervision while you remain awake and alert. The typical initial course of treatment is about 19-40 minutes, depending on what the doctor determines is the correct protocol, daily over 4-6 weeks.
About TMS Therapy
TMS Therapy is the only non-systemic and non-invasive depression treatment cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for patients who have not benefited from prior antidepressant treatment.
TMS Therapy is:
- Non-invasive, meaning that it does not involve surgery. It does not require any anesthesia or sedation, as the patient remains awake and alert during the treatment.
- Non-systemic, meaning that it is not taken by mouth and does not circulate in the bloodstream throughout the body.
TMS Therapy FAQs
What is TMS Therapy?
TMS stands for transcranial magnetic stimulation. It is used to treat depression by stimulating the brain non-invasively using electromagnetic fields, similar to those produced by an MRI machine. During TMS Therapy, a magnetic field is administered in very short pulses to the part of the brain that research has demonstrated to be associated with depression. The typical initial course of treatment is about 19-37 minutes daily over 4-6 weeks.
How does TMS Therapy Work?
The TMS Therapy system uses short pulses of magnetic fields to stimulate the area of the brain that is thought to function abnormally in patients with depression. The magnetic field produces an electric current in the brain that stimulates the brain cells (neurons). This results in changes that are thought to be beneficial in the treatment of depression.
Is TMS Therapy a good alternative for patients who cannot tolerate the side effects associated with antidepressant medications?
TMS Therapy is non-systemic (does not circulate in the blood throughout the body), so it does not have side effects such as weight gain, sexual dysfunction, nausea, dry mouth, sedation, etc. The most common side effects reported during clinical trials were headache and scalp discomfort – generally mild to moderate – occurring less frequently after the first week of treatment.
Is TMS Therapy like other alternative therapies which use magnets to treat some illnesses?
No. TMS Therapy involves a unique method of using pulsed magnetic fields for therapeutic benefit. The intensity of the magnetic field is similar to that of the magnetic fields used in magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI. These techniques differ radically from the popular use of low intensity, static magnetic fields. These products deliver weak and undirected static fields that are not capable of activating brain cells.
Is TMS Therapy like electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)?
No, the two procedures are very different. While both are effective in the treatment of depression, there are many differences in safety and tolerability.
During TMS Therapy, patients sit in a chair and are awake and alert throughout the entire 37-minute procedure – no sedation is used with TMS Therapy. Patients can transport themselves to and from treatment.
In over 10,000 active treatments with TMS Therapy in clinical trials, no seizures were observed. TMS Therapy was also shown to have no negative effects on memory function in these studies.
In contrast, “shock therapy,” or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), intentionally causes a seizure. Patients receiving ECT must be sedated with general anesthesia and paralyzed with muscle relaxants. Recovery from an ECT treatment session occurs slowly, and patients are usually closely monitored for minutes or a even few hours after a treatment.
Short-term confusion and memory loss are common with ECT, and long-term disruptions in memory have been shown to occur and may persist indefinitely in some people. Because of the side effects associated with ECT, a significant amount of caregiver support is required.
Can I also take antidepressant(s) if I am receiving TMS Therapy?
Yes. In clinical trials, TMS Therapy was safely administered with and without other antidepressant medications.