What Is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and How Does It Work?

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Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a safe and effective treatment proven to help those who struggle with severe depression. It is particularly helpful for people with depression who have not experienced significant relief from antidepressant medications or have difficulty with side effects.

Learn more about TMS, how it works, and what you might expect at a treatment appointment.

What Is TMS?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, is a non-invasive procedure.

A coil is placed against the scalp, and it delivers magnetic pulses to the brain.

The brain is made up of cells called neurons, which talk to each other through connections called synapses.

When a TMS machine delivers repeated magnetic pulses, it changes how efficiently neurons communicate.

TMS’s magnetic waves non-invasively reach areas near the brain’s surface called the cortex.

For example, we often target the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is involved in depression.

TMS can be particularly helpful for individuals with treatment-resistant depression, where talk therapies and antidepressant medications haven’t helped.

How Safe Is TMS?

Tens of millions of TMS treatments have shown that it’s safe.

It does have some side effects such as scalp discomfort, headaches, and a very rare risk of seizures.

In contrast with TMS, psychiatric medications distribute chemicals throughout the body, so their side effects may be more severe and longer lasting.

What Happens if I Get TMS Treatment?

First, you’ll provide medical information and meet with a TMS provider to determine whether TMS is appropriate for you.

They’ll consider safety factors such as metal in your head or neck or seizure history, as well as evidence of TMS effectiveness for your diagnosis.

Next, there would be six to eight weeks of daily treatments.

Alternatively, TMS may be given up to 10 times per day for up to five days.

Studies have shown that over 50% of people who get better during the initial treatment are still doing well after one year.

The McLean Hospital TMS clinics also offer opportunities for patients to participate in research to better understand and improve TMS effectiveness.

McLean’s TMS Services are available in two locations, Belmont and Middleborough. Contact us today at 617.855.2630 to find out if TMS can help you or a loved one.