The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a device for the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD) or treatment-resistant depression (TRD) in 2008.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a drug-free, noninvasive therapy that delivers targeted, MRI-strength magnetic pulses to stimulate specific nerve cells in the brain. Previous studies revealed this action could reverse the changes in brain chemicals and brain cell activity that occur in major depression and other neurological and psychiatric disorders.
Clinical studies have revealed that TMS offers benefits for chronic pain linked to conditions like fibromyalgia, as well as tinnitus and addictions. Other research studies have revealed temporary, short-term improvements in an unspecified number of symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, paralysis and post-stroke speech disorders. TMS previously received CE approval for the treatment of chronic neuropathic pain and other conditions.
A TMS session on average lasts around 30 to 60 minutes, without the need for anesthesia. During the session, an electromagnetic coil is pressed against the forehead near the prefrontal cortex, which controls the amygdala during a stressful event. Electromagnetic pulses transmit through the coil and skull to reach the nerve cells in a localized brain region. TMS is considered to be a noninvasive treatment and does not have the same side effects as psychotropic medications, such as sedation, weight gain, addiction and constipation.
However, some patients have reported mild head pain after the initial treatment. There is also a small risk of seizure activity caused by the electric currents. TMS is not always a suitable treatment for people with a history of stroke, seizure and brain tumors, as well as people with implants and pacemakers.