How Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Rewires Your Brain

Nov 01, 2022
How Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Rewires Your Brain
Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a noninvasive treatment for depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, migraines, and smoking cessation. It poses very few risks, but many people haven’t heard of it or don’t understand how it works. Learn here.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, major depressive disorder is one of the most common mental disorders, and it can make functioning on a day-to-day basis very difficult. Treating depression can be difficult, and it may take a long time to find a treatment approach that works for you. 

At Pacific Phoenix TMS, Dr. Elia Gonzalez Rodriguez and her staff offer a treatment that has helped many patients who struggle with depression. It’s called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and it rewires your brain with a combination of magnetic activity and electricity. 

TMS may sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but it’s a thoroughly-studied technique that has been approved by the FDA to treat major depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, migraines, and more. Researchers are studying its efficacy in other conditions such as substance use disorder, Alzheimer’s, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and many others.

How TMS works

You may be wondering how TMS works. The cells in your brain use tiny amounts of electricity to send and receive information. When an item that conducts electricity is brought into a magnetic field, magnets and electricity can work together.Therefore when a powerful enough magnet is near your brain, it can influence the electrical activity of your brain cells. 

What to expect

When you have TMS, you wear a cushioned helmet that is used to generate a magnetic field. You’re seated in a comfortable chair, and will have some type of hearing protection — the magnets make a loud clicking sound, similar to that of an MRI machine. 

The helmet and the magnet are carefully positioned, and the treatment begins. You may feel a tapping sensation as the magnetic pulses increase in strength. Your hands may twitch, but that’s normal. Your provider then delivers magnetic pulses in the strength and timing necessary for your particular treatment. 

Treatment sessions can last anywhere from a few minutes to about half an hour. You’ll likely need several sessions per week over a defined course of time. Following your treatment session you can return to your normal activities.

Success rates

TMS is usually recommended for what’s known as treatment-resistant depression. That means you’ve tried other approaches and they haven’t worked. Somewhere around 30% of people who have depression fall into this category. 

Response rates for TMS in people with depression range from 30% to more than 60%. In other words, it often works where other treatments have failed. 

Very few risks

In addition to being a treatment that has a good success rate in treating depression, being entirely noninvasive — you don’t even have a needle stick —TMS also poses very low risk. The only serious side effect is seizure, and that happens in fewer than one in 10,000 people. 

Other potential side effects include: 

  • Headache
  • A feeling of dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Pain in your neck or scalp
  • A tingling sensation
  • Sleepiness
  • Facial twitching 

These side effects tend to be very short-lived and occur less with ongoing treatments. 

Ready to learn more?

If you’d like to learn more about transcranial magnetic stimulation, and to find out if you might be a good candidate for this treatment, schedule an appointment at one of the two Pacific Phoenix TMS locations in Vancouver, Washington. We’re happy to answer your questions and provide additional information.