What is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation?

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What is TMS? TMS is short for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). It is also referred to as rTMS or repeated Trasncranial Magnetic Stimulation. As the name suggests TMS uses magnetic fields to stimulate the underlying brain. The great thing about TMS is that it can assist the brain without the need for any medications or surgery and no need to stay in hospital. It is as easy as having the person sit back in a lounge chair, a magnetic coil is placed over the correct part of the person’s scalp and the TMS machine does the rest. We don’t even have to shave your hair! The typical treatment session lasts less than one hour and the person can carry on with their day as usual following the treatment session.

TMS was originally designed and used in medical research to study the brain and its functioning. It has been used in research for over thirty years. About ten years ago doctors realised that TMS was not only useful in studying the brain but could be used to change brain functioning. In the decade that followed, doctors and scientists have been looking into many brain conditions that could be helped by TMS including; chronic pain, stroke, and a range of psychiatric conditions.

A technique called “repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulations” ( rTMS ) which applied repeated stimulation to the brain has been shown to have long lasting effects on the brain that lasted after the treatment is finished. This means that after a coarse of treatment, the benefit would last for several months or longer. Exactly how long the effect will last varies from person to person.

In 2008 rTMS was approved for the treatment of depression in the United States and has been gaining popularity in that country and more recently also in Europe for the treatment of depression. Over this time it has also been used in a very limited way in Australia, but this has been mostly in university research clinics and a small number of private hospital. Sydney TMS is one of the first in the country to offer this treatment to outpatients suffering Major Depression.