Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
for Treating Depression
Depression is treated by utilizing both Medication and Psychotherapy. For a long time, medical professionals believed that the best way to treat depression was pharmacologically. This approach focuses on the ‘chemical imbalance’ raison d'être for depression, specifically an imbalance of norepinephrine and serotonin. From a purely biological perspective, the medication treatment regimen makes sense, while Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) was perceived as an adjunct or supporting treatment regimen.
Many clinicians from yesteryear attribute depression to low levels of serotonin. However, the theory of a chemical imbalance being responsible for depression is surprisingly weak. In fact, there is no research which attributes depression to low levels of serotonin. To this day, there are neurologists, clinicians, and psychiatrists who still believe that the chemical imbalance theory is largely responsible for depression.
The other approach to treating depression is known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This approach has proven surprisingly efficacious over time. One particular research study found that 58% of patients in each study – one who received medication treatment and one who received CBT – underwent significant improvement. The study confirmed that both treatment protocols were equally effective in treating depression.
While neither can exclusively be considered a blanket approach to treating depression, a fusion of medication and CBT has generally been accepted in medical circles. It is safe to say that CBT without medication can be just as effective but treatment utilizing both medication along with CBT can be even more effective in treating depression. As a general rule, if the depression a patient is experiencing is severe, medication is strongly recommended.
Alternative Options for Treating Depression: Magnetic Fields
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation can be used in the treatment of depression, otherwise known as TMS treatment.This regimen effects brain cell functionality and it serves as a non-invasive tool for depolarizing cerebral neurons. This methodology has the potential to provide spatial resolution and temporal resolution. It can be used with other options such as neurocognitive and neuro-experimental treatment protocols.
This treatment protocol can be repeated for 4-6 weeks and is cleared by the US FDA for treating MDD (major depressive disorder). It is a useful treatment option for depressed patients who show resistance to antidepressants. By generating activity within neuronal cells (via electromagnetic induction), this novel treatment option (TMS) can be highly effective in treating depression.
During treatment, a series of brief magnetic pulses are directed at the brain resulting in cortical stimulation. rTMS (Repetitive TMS) is the repetitive delivery of pulses to the brain via magnetic fields. By inducing electromagnetic phenomena via magnetic and electrical energy, TMS has proven to be highly efficient in treating MDD. The magnetic field forms on the surface of the head, sans any intrusive medical procedures.
TMS treatment is a relatively noninvasive procedure and there are no long-term adverse side effects. Usually, TMS therapy involves 5 daily 20-30 min treatment sessions that continue for up to 6 weeks. The effectiveness of TMS on major depressive disorder reflects positively in terms of amelioration of symptoms. The left DLPFC is subjected to high-frequency stimulation while the right DLPFC is subjected to low-frequency stimulation.
TMS is an Innovative New Technology for Treating Depression
Overall, TMS treatment has shown positive results in patients. There are notable improvements in mood with minimal side effects when compared to medication (antidepressants and antipsychotics). Compared to placebo effects, this non-invasive treatment option was associated with substantially increased antidepressant effectiveness. At present, this novel treatment option is being investigated for the antidepressant-like effectiveness of TMS in terms of neurobiology.
We know that on a clinical level, TMS is a highly effective depression treatment regimen. It is an innovative technology with tremendous potential which has already been shown to have great results. This form of treatment while effective, requires compliance on the patient’s part as TMS requires many trips to the provider’s clinic for multiple sessions to be effective in treating MDD. Currently, treatment options are no longer limited to serotonin reuptake inhibitors and CBT – there are also TMS options available.