Magnetic stimulation is a non-invasive technique used to excite and depolarize neurons in the brain and peripheral nervous system using induced currents. The excitation is caused by weak electric currents induced in the tissue by rapidly changing magnetic fields. The discovery is based on the principle of electromagnetic induction – discovered in 1831 by British scientist Michael Faraday.
When used to stimulate the brain it is normally referred to as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). TMS can be either single or paired pulse TMS or repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS). Single/paired pulse TMS is mainly used for physiological research and diagnostic purposes. When the magnetic stimulation is delivered at regular intervals, it is termed rTMS. When stimulating the brain rTMS can produce lasting effects on cerebral functions, such as improvement of mood in depression (George and Belmaker, 2007).
Repetitive Transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a non-invasive technique used to excite and depolarize neurons in the brain. The excitation is caused by weak electric currents induced in the tissue by rapidly changing magnetic fields.
rTMS is an effective, non-invasive non-drug alternative for the large number of patients not responding to medication or who cannot tolerate the side effects. rTMS does not require anesthesia – and is not to be confused with ECT (Electro Convulsive Therapy).
Research and experience from clinics offering this treatment report of promising results in terms of response rate or even complete remission (disappearance of all depression symptoms). Read for example George et al., 2010, Connolly et al., 2012.
In short, the core element in depression treatment with rTMS is that a magnetic coil delivers magnetic pulses to stimulate nerve cells in the part of the brain controlling the mood (known as the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex). The rapid change in the magnetic field induces a current, and if the current induced is of sufficient amplitude and duration, it will excite neurons.
rTMS creates an increased blood flow in the stimulated regions of the brain and increases the glucose metabolism – research shows that people suffering from depression has a reduced blood flow and glucose metabolism (Videbech, 2000). Research also shows that repeated stimulation of the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex has an antidepressant effect on people suffering from major depression, and that rTMS increases the level of the neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate in the central nervous system (Keck et al., 2002). Neurotransmitters are chemical connections used by the brain cells to send signals to each other.
A meta-analysis of 34 studies showed that when it comes to depression treatment, rTMS is more effective than antidepressants. (Slotema et al., 2010)
Please note that rTMS is an acknowledged and widespread therapy in the USA, but treatment providers are still limited in Europe and the rest of the world. If your doctor or psychiatrist is not familiar with the treatment yet, please contact MagVenture at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will help guide you to the nearest treatment provider.