TMS Has Been Around Longer Than You Thought


The use of magnets to treat ailments has been around for more than a hundred years.  While the modern incarnation of the transcranial magnetic stimulation device was first introduced in 1985 by Anthony Barker, it’s roots go back much further than that to 1881, when chemist and physicist Michael Faraday created a magnetic field by running an electric current through a coil which led to great advancements in the science of electromagnetism.  He found that alternating the magnetic field had an effect on nearby conductors like pieces of metal but it also has the same effect when placed in proximity to the brain―it affects neurons in the brain which are also conductors of electricity.  When it’s done in quick pulses, the neurons become depolarized which makes them release neurotransmitters which are so important in healthy brain function.  Antidepressants target the neurotransmitters associated with depression―serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine―to change the way the chemicals are absorbed.  They are highly effective in the treatment of depression but not for everyone.

It was in the mid-1900s that rTMS was studied by researchers as a possible treatment for depression.  After years of testing and studies that showed a marked improvement in the symptoms of depression in patients, the FDA approved the Neurostar TMS device as a clinical treatment of depression in 2008 for patients who were unable to find relief from symptoms using antidepressants.  It is a drug-free alternative when those drugs fail to work.

Until then, the only other effective treatment for Major Depressive Disorder aside from psychotherapy and antidepressants was electroconvulsive therapy (electroshock) or ECT.  Although effective, ECT can have serious side effects and is an invasive treatment that requires sedation.  ECT uses an electric shock to induce a seizure in the patient to achieve the desired results.  Side effects of ECT include nausea, memory loss, headaches, muscle aches, and may be too risky for people with pre-existing heart problems.

TMS, on the other hand, is milder and does not require sedation.  It’s done on an outpatient basis in a relaxed atmosphere and side effects are rare but can include headaches, lightheadedness, and sensitivity around the area the treatment was administered.  As opposed to ECT, TMS therapy is able to target the area of the brain that is associated with depression, the left area of the prefrontal cortex.  The treatments last approximately 20 minutes, 5 days a week for 4-6 weeks.  Because the patient remains awake and alert during the procedure, there is no downtime.  Unlike with sedation, the patient can drive after the procedure and can go right back to work.

Gateway TMS is a leading provider of TMS treatments in the St. Louis area.  We use state-of-the-art Neurostar TMS devices.  Our caring staff will guide you through the process from diagnoses to treatment to filling out insurance forms all in a calm, relaxing environment.  To find out if TMS is a good course of treatment for your Major Depressive Disorder, call Gateway today at (314) 909-8487. We’re here to help.