One of the leading forms of mental illness today is severe depression. An estimated 15 million Americans suffer from this disorder, which creates ongoing symptoms of sadness, hopelessness, sleep and appetite disturbance, and even despair.
For many individuals, psychotherapy combined with antidepressant medication can be a literal lifesaver. However, some people who suffer from severe depression do not respond to conventional treatment approaches. Recent advances in alternative treatments have led to a new method of managing depression: the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).
What is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation?
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation treatment is conducted using a device called the NeuroStar® TMS Therapy System.
While treatment is administered, patients remain awake while sitting in a comfortable reclining chair. A treatment coil is applied to the head and the NeuroStar® TMS Therapy System generates highly concentrated magnetic field pulses that turn on and off rapidly.
In clinical trials, patients reported relief from the emotional effects of depression and experienced improvement in anxiety, changes in appetite, body aches and lack of energy – all physical symptoms of depression.
The Nature of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Treatment
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is based upon the principle that direct electrical stimulation of nerve cells in the brain can affect mood and behavior. Many mental disorders may stem from abnormal behavior of particular regions of the brain or the over- or under-stimulation of nerve cells.
The transcranial magnetic stimulation procedure involves the use of magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. While sitting in a specially designed treatment chair, a patient has a large electromagnetic coil placed against the scalp. A magnetic field can then be produced by passing a current through the coil, as a machine generates the precise amount of current necessary. When the coil is activated, its current travels through the skull into the brain, stimulating the prefrontal cortex, a region associated with mood control.
A series of several treatments is usually conducted to achieve maximum effectiveness.