Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (are you sure that isn’t a dentist’s chair?)

Is that a high-tech dental chair? Maybe a robotic hair stylist? How ’bout an interactive video game? No, no, no…it’s the NeuroStar, and it delivers transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for the treatment of drug-resistant major depressive disorder.

Very simply put, TMS is a non-invasive method of stimulating targeted areas of the brain by using weak electrical currents and rapidly changing magnetic fields. As it applies to our work, the idea is to activate the neurotransmitters involved in depressed mood; serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.

The FDA cleared the NeuroStar for the treatment of drug resistant major depressive disorder in 2008. Interestingly, TMS wasn’t cleared, just the device.

For the record, studies suggest TMS may also provide vital assessment information and relief for migraines, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, Parkinson’s Disorder, tinnitus, auditory hallucinations, and more.

With regard to the treatment of major depressive disorder the hot spot is the left side of the prefrontal cortex, as research has shown inactivity in this part of the brain is huge in the presentation of major depressive episodes. Now, realize the stimulus is only going about 2-3 centimeters into the brain. This is not a deep-brain procedure.

TMS is most often delivered in daily 40 minute sessions for 4-6 wcoeeks. This is known as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). The virtually painless outpatient treatment is administered by a physician.

TMS made CNN’s list of the Top 10 Health Innovations of 2009. The NeuroStar is manufactured by Neuronetics. Their website contains a ton of great information; including a roster of physicians and centers offering the procedure.

Well, there’s a heads-up on a treatment for major depressive disorder you may not have known about or considered.

If you’ve had experience with TMS why not tell us about it in a comment? What thoughts do all of you have?