Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a new treatment for treatment resistant Major Depression. TMS was cleared for use by the FDA in October 2008. While the science behind TMS Therapy has been researched for decades, the treatment was made clinically available with the Neurostar TMS Therapy System. TMS is a non-invasive procedure given in an office setting without anesthesia, treatments last about 40 minutes and are typically given four to six weeks.
With TMS, magnetic pulses, generated by a treatment coil, are used to stimulate specific mood centers of the brain. The Neurostar TMS machine uses a strong electrical pulse in the treatment coil to create a magnetic pulse that travels across the hair, scalp, and skull, to induce electrical currents in the nerve cells of the brain. Directed at the pre-frontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls mood, these currents are strong enough to stimulate brain activity but mild enough so as not to induce any negative side-effects such as pain or discomfort, or seizures. In fact, in over 10,000 treatments in the Neurostar clinical trials, there were no seizures observed.
TMS was studied in patients who were diagnosed with treatment resistant depression, meaning they failed to receive therapeutic benefit with at least one adequate trial of an antidepressant medication. In this population, in an open clinical trial, about half the patients showed good response to the treatments with about a third of patients feeling completely better. TMS, using the Neurostar TMS System, has been cleared for use by the FDA as a treatment for Major Depression. TMS is now being studied for use in other conditions as well.