How does transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) treat depression?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

It's thought that it helps correct chemical imbalances in the brain that trigger depression. Some side effects may include feelings of lightheadedness and/or mild headaches. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is not FDA approved for treatment of depression. There are clinical trials being done at this time to determine its safety and effectiveness.

Dr. Tarique D. Perera, MD
Psychiatrist (Therapist)

Transcanial magnetic stimulation (TMS) uses a targeted magnetic pulse to activate or suppress brain cells to treat depression. Patients may relapse after completing TMS treatment for depression, So further treatment may be necessary. Typically, TMS treatment is combined with antidepressants to treat depression with up to an 80 percent success rate.

In this video, Tarique Perera, MD, a psychiatrist with Contemporary Care of Connecticut, describes TMS.

In transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), magnetic fields are sent through the scalp and skull to a particular area of the brain. When the magnetic field enters the brain it creates a small electrical current. This electrical current stimulates the brain cells (neurons) in a targeted brain area and causes them to fire (or send an electrical impulse).

For the treatment of depression, TMS works by sending a magnetic pulse of less than one millisecond in duration to the brain area known as the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, an area on the left side of the forehead. Magnetic resonance imaging studies have shown that this area is underactive in patients with depression. By stimulating that area with TMS, the area may become more active. When TMS is given for four to six weeks, people may begin to feel improvement in their mood, sleep, appetite and ability to concentrate, and the symptoms of depression may begin to resolve.

Continue Learning about Depression Treatment

Depression Treatment

Depression Treatment

Because it is a multi-faceted condition, treatment for depression is multi-faceted as well. Minor depression can often be treated with therapy and a few simple lifestyle changes, while chronic or major depression treatment can req...

uire medication in addition to therapy. In some severe cases, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be used. It's important to work with your mental health professional to determine which course of treatment for your type of depression is most appropriate.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.