TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) is a non-invasive medical procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. It can be used for the treatment of depression, anxiety and other psychological and mood disorders.
The treatment involves placing an electromagnetic coil over a small area of a client’s head, near an area of the brain that is understood to be involved in processes such as mood regulation. Electromagnetic pulses then pass easily and painlessly through the skull and into the brain.
A typical session lasts under an hour and involves repeated pulses. When these are administered in rapid succession, it is referred to as repetitive TMS (or rTMS), which can produce longer, lasting changes in brain activity.
The benefits of TMS
TMS seeks to alter specific regions of the brain in people who experience, for example, low moods. These regions of interest can be either activated by repetitive magnetic stimulation (with a frequency of more than one impulse per second) or down regulated (by one impulse per second), depending on where the magnetic coil is placed. The effect of the direct stimulation to the nerves that are close to the skull results in a beneficial change to symptoms.
This form of treatment is usually recommended only after psychotherapies or medication have failed to work for an individual. It is very different from electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), in which an electrical current is actually delivered throughout the whole brain.
TMS is a safe clinical procedure that does not require an anaesthetic, as the individual feels only a light pulsing or tapping sensation.