How Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Rewires Your Brain

Mar 06, 2023
How Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Rewires Your Brain
If you suffer from depression, you may be frustrated by medications that don’t work or have side effects. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-drug, noninvasive therapy that helps your brain form new connections to improve your mood.

Every year, about 7% of women and men over age 18 in the United States suffer from at least one episode of major depressive disorder. Depression does more than affect your mood and your social life; it increases your risk for coronary artery disease by 64%. 

If you struggle with depression, you may have tried medication after medication without lasting relief. Unfortunately, the more medications you use, the less likely they are to be helpful. 

Whether your depression began as a response to an illness, such as cancer, or whether you’re not sure why you have depression, you now have a new option. A cutting-edge, FDA-cleared non-pharmaceutical therapy called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) offers long-term relief. 

At Mesquite Valley Integrated Health in Mesa, Arizona, Troy Fulton, PMHNP-BC and the rest of our expert mental health team recommend NeuroStar® TMS for major depressive disorder. Here’s why — and how — TMS may be the solution you need to feel better.

TMS increases brain activity 

You may not be surprised to learn that, when compared to a normal brain on PET scan, a depressed brain shows much less activity. If you’re depressed, it’s because your brain’s activity is depressed, too, especially in areas that regulate emotion.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT, aka “shock therapy”) has been the gold-standard treatment for depression that doesn’t respond to medication. However, ECT has side effects and some of them are quite serious. For instance, ECT may negatively affect your memory and even your cognition.

In contrast, TMS stimulates activity in your brain without affecting your memory or cognition. In fact, the only side effect that you may experience is a short-term headache during or after treatment. However, if you suffer from epilepsy or have a traumatic brain injury (TBI), TMS may not be right for you.

TMS builds neural networks

TMS uses powerful magnets that are similar to those used in an MRI machine to send focused pulses of energy into your brain at the proper location and depth. These targeted magnetic pulses stimulate the nerve cells in the underactive areas of your brain that control your mood.

The pulses encourage the nerves to strengthen connections and produce more neurotransmitters, which helps the brain become more active. The pulses “wake up” dormant synapses, which revitalizes the brain and gives it more energy. They also re-link networks between brain regions.

A complete series of TMS treatments helps your brain become more “plastic,” which allows it to adapt and grow. Neuroplasticity is key to long-term brain health.

TMS is safe, comfortable, and effective

You simply sit comfortably in a treatment chair for your TMS therapy. Your practitioner places the cushioned devices against your head, at the precise location where therapy is needed. You may feel pulses or taps while the device delivers energy to your brain. 

A full series of NeuroStar TMS treatments is 36 sessions, 20 minutes per day, five days a week. However, you may start to feel improvements in your mood within the first 2-3 weeks. 

About 83% of patients experience relief with NeuroStar TMS. In 62%, their depression was completely relieved. As a comparison, if you’ve tried up to three medications for depression, your chance of remission (i.e., full relief) is only 7%.

The effects of a TMS series tend to be long-lasting. You may feel better for anywhere from several months to a year or more. In fact, most women and men report benefits that last longer than a year. Depending on your response, we may recommend follow-up sessions to keep your brain — and you — stimulated, active, and happy.

Although we use NeuroStar primarily for major depressive disorder, it’s shown benefit in other conditions, too. Patients with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxious depression may also respond to TMS.

Find out if NeuroStar TMS is the depression therapy that you and your brain need to regain high activity, connectivity, and neuroplasticity by calling our office or requesting an appointment online for an evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment today.