Stimulating a Healthy Brain: The Origins and Benefits of TMS Therapy

Stimulating a Healthy Brain: The Origins and Benefits of TMS Therapy

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a proven effective method of treating depression and other mental conditions. Common adoption among psychiatrists and clinics has been significant over the past decade. However, the research, science, and clinical trials have been going on for over a century.

The Early Sparks of Research

Research behind TMS treatment in its modern form dates back to the 1980s. The first TMS therapy machine was introduced and tested for the treatment of depression in 1985. The principles of electromagnetism used in TMS, though, were discovered by English scientist Michael Faraday in the 1880s.

Faraday discovered the core concept behind the machine used to administer TMS therapy. Through his research, he found that he could generate a magnetic field by administering an electrical current through a wire coil. From there, he recognized that the magnetic field generated from the coil could stimulate another electrical current when placed near another conductor (such as another coil).

In TMS therapy, the secondary conductor is the patient’s brain. The application employs the same dynamics of electromagnetism identified by Faraday.

Throughout the 20th century, the exploration and experimentation of human bioelectricity advanced significantly. Bioelectricity refers to the natural occurrence of electrical currents in human biology. The greatest example of this is the firing of electrical signals among neurons in the brain and throughout the body’s nervous system.

Adoption of Modern Therapy

Major research on the clinical application of TMS technology as therapy began in 1991. Dr. Han Martin Kolbinger published the results of a study on the effects of TMS therapy on 15 patients suffering from major depressive disorder. Patients who received electromagnetic stimulation all recorded positive improvements in their depression. All patients had been resistant to other methods of treatment, including antidepressants. None experienced adverse effects from undergoing TMS therapy.

In 2008, TMS therapy was approved for use to treat major depressive disorder by the FDA. Since then, the therapy has undergone significant adoption by psychiatric practitioners and clinics due to its efficacy, safety, and the fact that it is a much less involved treatment compared to ECT.

TMS therapy has also proven to be an effective treatment method for other neurological conditions and psychiatric disorders, including obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The FDA approved TMS for OCD treatment in 2018. Recently, TMS has been gvien a breakthrough designation for the treatment of bipolar disorder, paving the way for full approval in the near future.

Who Can Benefit From TMS Therapy?

TMS therapy has been beneficial to patients suffering from various degrees of depressive disorder. These can range from low-grade depression to major depressive disorder. TMS has markedly improved treatment for patients who are resistant to traditional methods, such as the prescription of medication.

For those who do not experience improvements in depressive symptoms from antidepressant medications, TMS therapy is often able to alleviate symptoms if not cause full regression of the condition. TMS treatment is also an option for people experiencing unwanted side effects from medication, regardless of the degree of impact.

For similar reasons, TMS therapy has also garnered positive treatment results on people with OCD. People suffering from OCD, in fact, can be much less responsive to medicated treatment plans. In the past, this left few options for those suffering from OCD aside from symptom management. TMS is a powerful treatment option for many cases of OCD, especially those only partially responsive or resistant to other treatments.

Given the safe and effective track record of TMS therapy for major depressive order treatment, access to and adoption of this therapy is expected to increase even further as psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners become trained in its application. It is also expected to become more common for treating OCD, bipolar disorder, and other psychiatric conditions.

Dr. Julia Evans, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist and owner of Brain Wellness Institute (BWI). Dr. Evans specializes in neuropsychological evaluation, cognitive rehabilitation, and psychotherapy. She obtained her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Loma Linda University and completed her fellowship at UCLA, pre-doctoral internship at Vanderbilt University, and Bachelor’s degree from USC. To read Dr. Evans full bio, please click here.

BWI’s practice includes a variety of clinicians, from psychologists and psychiatrists to nurse practitioners and licensed marriage and family therapist as well as advanced doctoral trainees. Our team members and clinicians are active members of the mental health community. Some of associations our provider participate in are the American Psychological Association and the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Our office is located at 940 South Coast Drive, Suite 225, in Costa Mesa, California. For more information, please call us at (949) 743-1457, by fax at (949) 274-8299 or by email at