How Does Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Work?

So how does Trancranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS work? Well, we’re glad you asked! The Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation machine is an electromagnet that can generate a magnetic force in pulses. This means it can turn on and off magnetic forces at different speeds. The strength of these magnetic forces are similar to that of an MRI machine. This magnetic force when placed on the scalp can stimulate a very small area on the surface of the brain. This area is about the size of a ten cent coin. The Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation settings can generate a slow pulse, for example 1hz (one pulse per second) or a fast pulse 10 Hz (ten pulses per second). A slow pulse is used to reduce the activity in the underlying brain and a fast pulse used to activate the underlying brain. Both techniques can be useful depending on which part of the brain they are applied to.

In contrast to other forms of brain stimulation such as ECT (electro convulsive therapy) and DBS (deep brain stimulation). Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation only effects a very specific and small part of the brain, does not require surgery, does not require hospitalisation and is very well tolerated.

It is during the first visit when various measurements are taken to ensure that the TMS coil will be positioned in the correct position over the client’s head.  The TMS coil is then held by the technician over the patient’s scalp.  The technician then measures the patient’s motor threshold. The motor threshold is the minimum amount of power necessary to make the patient’s thumb twitch.  This is different for each individual and the technician will know the intensity required to stimulate the individual’s brain cells.

After setting up the patient and machine in the correct position, the treatment usually last about 40 minutes and after the treatment is finished the person can go about their everyday duties.

To create a sustained effect of the brain, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation needs to be repeated over a series of treatment sessions. The most accepted coarse of treatment is between 20-30 sessions. Typically, these are best delivered daily Monday to Friday for 4-6 weeks. The benefits from Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation start to be noticeable to patients after about two weeks of treatment.