Brain stimulation represents a new discipline in psychiatry focused on using magnetic or electrical energy to improve brain function. These techniques are used both for research and for treatment in major psychiatric disorders that do not always respond fully to conventional treatments, such as medication or psychotherapy. Stimulation with electrical or magnetic energy interacts with neurons, causing them to release chemicals called neurotransmitters, and possibly also helping form more healthy synapses, or connections, between nerve cells. Repeated stimulation can modulate or "reset" the activity of specific regions of the brain to exert significant changes. Brain stimulation therapy uses both traditional and brand new methods of applying energy. It is not a replacement for medications, but it may be added onto medications to improve outcome. As with other treatments, brain stimulation has a risk of side effects that should be discussed thoroughly with your doctor before making a decision.
Currently approved treatments include new forms of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) that reduce the risk of side effects as well as two recently developed treatments: transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and vagus nerve stimulation (VNS).