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Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) And Treatment-Resistant Depression: 4 Crucial Facts

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: A hand holding a magnet pointed at several cardboard cutouts of people.

In recent years, psychiatry has witnessed remarkable advancements in treating depression, particularly for individuals who do not respond adequately to traditional therapies. One such breakthrough is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), a non-invasive and revolutionary technique that has shown remarkable effectiveness in addressing treatment-resistant depression.

By activating neural activity in specific brain regions implicated in depression, TMS offers a personalized and targeted treatment option. The efficacy and long-term benefits of TMS have been supported by various studies, making it a viable option for individuals who have not responded adequately to other treatments. As further research continues to refine and expand our understanding of TMS, it holds great promise in revolutionizing mental health and offering hope to those with treatment-resistant depression.

At Integrative Health Center, we aim to help people struggling with mental health. No matter how hopeless an individual might feel, there is always a way to recover. TMS might be the way to regain control when nothing else works. This article will explore what TMS is, how it works, and why it assists in treating treatment-resistant depression.

1. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and How It Works (TMS)?

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a cutting-edge therapeutic technique that operates on the principle of electromagnetic induction. This non-invasive procedure involves placing a magnetic coil near the patient’s scalp, which generates focused pulses. These pulses generate precise electrical currents that stimulate targeted brain areas implicated in depression.

The brain works by sending electrical currents back and forth, which regulate everything from movement to mood. The theory behind TMS is that sometimes, these areas can lag and not react or activate as well as they should. The magnetic coil is placed on the scalp, generating a changing magnetic field. This magnetic field induces small electrical currents in the underlying brain tissue, stimulating neural activity. By modulating the activity of specific brain regions, TMS can help restore the health of neural circuits.

Depression is characterized by altered brain activity and connectivity patterns, with specific regions often exhibiting hypoactivity. Depending on the stimulation parameters, TMS can directly influence neuronal firing, enhancing or suppressing activity. By stimulating underactive areas associated with depression, TMS can help restore normal brain function and alleviate depressive symptoms.

2. How Does TMS Help Treatment-Resistant Depression?

Treatment-resistant depression describes when individuals do not experience significant symptom relief despite multiple therapy sessions. TMS has emerged as a promising option for individuals with treatment-resistant depression due to its unique mode of action. Unlike other treatments that affect the entire brain, TMS targets specific regions of mood regulation. TMS offers a personalized and precise treatment approach by directly influencing these regions.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the efficacy of TMS in treating treatment-resistant depression. In 2019, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published a meta-analysis of the studies on how TMS has impacted treatment-resistant depression. These studies compared TMS with a “sham” or stand-in treatment. The authors concluded the evidence of TMS was overwhelmingly positive when treating depression and precisely its treatment-resistant variety. It can also work in various treatment regimens, helping mental health when administered alone or combined with other treatments.

Furthermore, TMS can have long-term benefits. Studies have examined the durability of TMS effects in individuals with treatment-resistant depression. The findings revealed that the clinical benefits of TMS persisted for up to one year for a significant proportion of the participants, providing evidence of the sustained impact of this treatment. Some patients even achieved remission, which is the return to normal functioning.

3. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Sessions

Although TMS therapy can vary in duration, frequency, and number of sessions depending on the specific treatment plan, a typical TMS session usually lasts between 20 to 40 minutes. During this time, the patient is comfortably seated in a chair while a trained technician or healthcare professional positions a specialized magnetic coil over the targeted area of the scalp. The coil generates magnetic pulses that pass through the skull, stimulating the underlying brain regions.

During the treatment, you may feel a clicking sensation from the magnetic coil. Some individuals describe this feeling as like a light tapping on the head or the sound of a woodpecker. While these sensations may take a little getting used to, they are usually well-tolerated and do not cause pain. Compared to other treatment options for depression, such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), TMS is considered non-invasive. It does not involve surgery or require any anesthesia. After the session, patients can continue their regularly scheduled daily activity and feel little to no discomfort.

Generally, an entire course of TMS treatment consists of approximately 20 to 30 sessions. However, a healthcare provider will assess progress and adjust the number of sessions.  

4. Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (Deep TMS) is an advanced form of TMS that targets deeper brain structures than traditional TMS. In traditional TMS, the magnetic pulses primarily affect the brain’s outer surface, called the cerebral cortex. Deep TMS utilizes a specialized H-coil capable of reaching deeper brain regions, such as the limbic system.

The limbic system, including the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala, plays a crucial role in mood regulation and is often implicated in depressive disorders. By targeting these deeper brain structures, Deep TMS aims to modulate the neural circuits involved in depression more directly.

Deep TMS is administered similarly to traditional TMS, with the patient seated comfortably and the specialized H-coil positioned over the target region. The treatment session duration and frequency are generally the same as conventional TMS.         

Deep TMS has shown promising results in treating various mental health conditions, including depression, post-traumatic stress order (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It has been cleared by regulatory authorities, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as a safe and effective treatment option for specific indications.

5. Integrative Health Center and TMS

If you struggle with mental health conditions such as treatment-resistant depression, don’t lose hope of getting better. Integrative Health Center offers therapy that can make a meaningful difference to your quality of life and wellness. Our medical professionals are experts in several approaches that can be combined or administered separately to significant effect.

We have conventional psychiatric regimens like cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, or interpersonal therapy. We also offer deep TMS, biofeedback training, and other alternative approaches that can help you regain control of your life.

Call (855) 599-9987 or reach out on our website to find out how we can help.

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