What is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation?

Many people with depression experience symptom relief with standard treatments such as medication and talk therapy. However, for some people, these treatments are not effective. When psychotherapy and other therapies don’t work, your specialist may recommend transcranial magnetic stimulation. It is a non-invasive procedure that involves delivering repetitive magnetic pulses to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. The magnetic fields stimulate brain cells, impacting brain function, easing depression symptoms, and improving mood. As mentioned earlier, mental health specialists recommend TMS Kingwood when other depression treatments are ineffective. Read on to learn how transcranial magnetic stimulation works.

How does transcranial magnetic stimulation work?

During a TMS session, your provider places an electromagnetic coil against your scalp near your forehead. The coil painlessly delivers a magnetic pulse that stimulates nerve cells in the brain region responsible for mood control and depression. The magnetic pulse is thought to activate brain regions that have decreased activity in depression.

The biology of why TMS is effective remains unclear, but the stimulation appears to impact the brain’s function; in turn, this eases depression symptoms and improves mood. There are different ways to perform TMS; techniques may change as experts learn about the most effective ways to perform the procedure.

What are the potential side effects and risks?

TMS is a non-invasive form of brain stimulation that doesn’t require surgery like vagus nerve stimulation or deep brain stimulation. It does not require the implantation of electrodes, and unlike electroconvulsive therapy, it doesn’t require sedation with anesthesia and doesn’t cause seizures. Generally, TMS is considered safe and well tolerated, but it can cause some side effects.

Common side effects are usually mild to moderate and improve shortly after the procedure. They also decrease over time as one undergoes subsequent sessions. These side effects may include lightheadedness, headache, scalp discomfort and tingling, spasms, or twitching of facial muscles. Your doctor may recommend you take over-the-counter pain medication before the procedure to reduce the symptoms. Adjusting the level of stimulation may also help.

Although rare, transcranial magnetic stimulation may cause serious side effects like seizures, mania, and hearing loss. Mania is more likely to affect people with bipolar disorder, and hearing loss often is due to inadequate ear protection during treatment. It is unclear whether TMS has any long-term side effects.

What happens during treatment?

You will sit in a comfortable reclining chair, and before treatment begins, your doctor will identify the best place to put the magnets on your head and the right dose of magnetic energy for you. Next, your provider places an electromagnetic coil against your head and switches it on and off to produce stimulating pulses. As a result, you may hear a tapping or clicking sound that usually lasts a few seconds, followed by a pause. You may also feel a tapping sensation on your forehead; this part of the process is called mapping.

To determine the amount of magnetic energy you need, your doctor will increase the magnetic dose until your fingers or hand twitch. Your motor threshold is used as a reference point to determine the right magnetic energy for you. The procedure lasts about 40 minutes, during which you may feel some scalp discomfort and for a short time afterward.

If you have further questions about TMS, consult your provider at Kingwood Psychiatry.