TMS: Magnetic Therapy For The Brain

The idea that the brain is electrochemical in its function is pretty well established these days. So it stands to reason that magnetic therapy or electrical stimulation of the brain could be used to treat a host of neurological and psychological illnesses if properly applied.

Perhaps the most popularized magnetic therapy for the brain has been ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). Commonly called shock treatment: For many years doctors have turned to electroshock treatment when the more conventional methods of talk therapy and prescription medications have failed to successfully treat depression and other brain disorders.

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However, as a magnetic therapy ECT has a nasty reputation for being overly brutal. ECT has improved over the years but is still considered to be a relatively harsh treatment.

A relatively new brain magnetic therapy is called rTMS (repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation). Unlike shock treatment, which is a sudden jolt of electricity, rTMS is a repetition of much smaller pulses of magnetic energy administered to the brain over a 20 to 30-minute session.

Dr. Anthony Barker of the United Kingdom developed TMS, which was its precursor, in the 1980s. Improvements in magnetic therapy technology in the 1990s led to better magnetic coils allowing high or low-frequency magnetic waves and much more accurate targeting of specific parts of the brain.

The current version integrating all these improvements is called rTMS or slow TMS if the magnetic waves are applied very slowly.

From the perspective of the patient, the procedure is very simple. It is an outpatient procedure lasting about 40 minutes from start to finish. There is no need for an anesthetic or complicated preparation as is common with shock treatment.