Many people struggling with depression are familiar with the use of antidepressants and talk therapy; however, the use of TMS therapy is not as well known. Knowledge of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) has been around for well over 100 years, but the non-invasive device that we’re familiar with today didn’t come about until 1985.

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100 Years in the Making

Michael Faraday, an English physicist, first discovered the physical principles of TMS in 1881. Faraday learned that it was possible to generate a magnetic field using a pulsing electric current. While performing TMS, a stimulating coil was held over a subject’s head. Faraday learned that this coil generated an electric current in the subject’s brain through electro-magnetic induction, and could therefore stimulate specific physiological or behavioral effects on the subject by targeting specific areas in the brain and communicating with the neurons.

While studying TMS and the effects it had on the brain and body began in the 1880s, 100 years would pass before Anthony Barker and his team introduced the first TMS device we recognize today. Barker and his team took a single Faraday coil and placed it on the scalp above the left cerebral motor strip. In doing this, they were able to move the right hand of the test subject, simply by communicating with the brain’s neurons through electromagnetic pulses. This was the first time the research community was able to see a direct physical response by using electromagnetic stimulation on the brain, and thus Anthony Barker is credited with the discovery of TMS.

FDA Approval

After Barker’s TMS device was presented in 1985, TMS would continue to undergo research and development. One of the primary areas studied with the TMS device was its ability to treat symptoms of depression. As studies and testing continued on the possible use of TMS as a treatment, a set of guidelines and safety measures were published in 1998, applicable to both clinical and laboratory settings. With over 90 completed clinical trials and data from multiple meta-analyses, the results showed that repetitive TMS treatment was effective or treating major depressive disorder.

With all of the positive data on display, the FDA approved the NeuroStar TMS device in 2008 as a possible treatment for depression. The FDA approved the NeuroStar TMS device under the guidelines that it was to be administered daily for 4-6 weeks, only for those who have shown resistance to antidepressants.

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Continuing Studies

The FDA approved of TMS Neurostar for treating depression in 2008, but many scientists and doctors realize TMS can help with so much more. Clinical trials and research studies have been and continue to be conducted for other ailments, such as migraines, anxiety, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s, memory cognition problems, and stroke victims. While TMS is currently not FDA approved as a treatment option for these other conditions, past and current studies have shown positive results. As time and technology continue to progress, we can only hope so will the treatment availability of TMS.

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