How Scientific is TMS Therapy? Are We Sure It’s Not Pseudoscience?

How Scientific is TMS Therapy? Are We Sure It’s Not Pseudoscience?

How Scientific is TMS Therapy? Are We Sure It’s Not Pseudoscience? 2560 853 Aware Behavioral Health

As psychiatrists, we are always looking for new, safe, effective ways to treat conditions that are otherwise difficult to treat. That is why many of us are so excited about TMS therapy, and why we have added it to our practice here at Aware Behavioral Health.

TMS Therapy, or Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, is a non-invasive, non medicinal, therapeutic intervention used to treat various neurological and psychiatric disorders, notably major depressive disorder. This therapy utilizes magnetic fields to modulate neuronal activity in specific parts of the brain. A device is placed on your head, and the electromagnetic waves target the specific areas of the brain that are responsible for depression symptoms.

TMS therapy also has very few problematic side effects (though very rare risks may occur, which will be discussed at your consultation), and other than a minor risk for headaches and some scalp irritation, it is generally pain free.

This device can look, especially to outsiders, like it’s too good to be true. An alternative to medication that can effectively help with treatment resistant depression?

But the scientific basis of TMS is well-established, supported by extensive research and clinical trials. Not only is the science behind TMS therapy sound, but the results extensively measured and the product is FDA approved.

The Mechanism of TMS Therapy

TMS operates on the principle of electromagnetic induction, similar to MRI technology. A TMS device generates a magnetic field by passing electricity through a coil placed near the scalp. This magnetic field is rapidly switched on and off, producing small electric currents in the area of the brain just under the coil.

The electric currents induced by the magnetic field can depolarize or hyperpolarize neurons in the targeted cortical areas. The nature of neuronal stimulation depends on various factors, including the intensity of the magnetic field, the frequency of the pulses (high or low), and the coil configuration. This activation can increase or decrease neuronal activity, leading to therapeutic effects.

How Does This Activation Affect Depression?

TMS therapy is not considered controversial. It is widely accepted within the scientific community.

That said, the specific mechanism that helps TMS work is not entirely clear. TMS is believed to influence the release and balance of neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. By adjusting the levels and activity of these chemicals, TMS can alleviate symptoms of depression and other neuropsychiatric conditions.

Support from Clinical Trials and Meta-analyses

Multiple randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and meta-analyses have validated the efficacy of TMS for depression, noting a dramatic difference in many of the patients that have received treatment. A comprehensive review by the American Psychiatric Association endorsed TMS as an effective treatment for patients who have not responded to antidepressant medications. Nearly all studies that have been completed by educational institutions and research facilities supports its use.

The changes can be viewed in the brain as well. Functional MRI (fMRI) and PET scans have shown changes in brain activity patterns following TMS treatment. These imaging studies have documented increases in cortical activity in regions involved in mood regulation, such as the prefrontal cortex, providing a visual endorsement of TMS’s impact on brain function.

It is clear from this research and these studies that TMS works as a way to treat medication resistant depression, and other mental health issues.

The Effects of TMS Therapy Are Measurable Over a Long Period of Time

Research indicates that the therapeutic effects of TMS can be sustained over time, with many patients experiencing relief from symptoms for several months post-treatment. Longitudinal studies tracking the effectiveness of TMS over periods extending up to one year post-treatment have found significant and lasting symptom reduction.

Why Use Medications Over TMS?

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is a highly effective option for patients with severe depression. But if it’s so effective and so widely accepted, why would anyone use other treatments, like medication?

Part of this is due to the newness of the technology and the availability of the devices. While we are able to offer TMS therapy here in Dallas, not many psychiatrists have the devices, and patients are typically unfamiliar with the technology.

Similarly, there are situations where medication presents an easier or cheaper option, especially for patients that do not have insurance, those that may not be able to travel to our location, and those that need help fast. Medication can be a more effective way to make an immediate impact on someone that is struggling.

Lastly, while TMS is considered very effective, it does not work on everyone. The success rate of TMS is a little over 50% for otherwise treatment resistant depression. That is, of course, excellent news for those that have struggled with depression that did not respond to medication, but TMS may not be right for all depression. You and your psychiatrist will need to determine if TMS is the right choice for you.

Call Today TMS Depression Treatment in Dallas, Arlington, Fort Worth, and Beyond

TMS Therapy is grounded in solid scientific principles and backed by extensive clinical research. Unlike pseudoscientific treatments, TMS has undergone rigorous testing and evaluation, has been proven effective through controlled studies, and has earned acceptance from the global medical community for its therapeutic benefits. This collective body of evidence supports TMS as a credible, non-invasive option for treating depression and highlights its potential in broader neurological and psychiatric care.

Dallas Psychiatrist Dr. Surin Sehdev

Dr. Surin Sehdev is the lead psychiatrist at Aware Behavioral Health in Dallas (formerly Bedford, TX). He has been working in the psychiatric field for 7+ years. He specializes in opioid withdrawal, ADHD, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and sexual dysfunction. Content on this blog and this website should be considered informal and should not be considered medical advice, as may be written and/or edited by non-medical staff. Please contact Dr. Sehdev for specific and accurate diagnoses and treatment information.

All stories by : Dallas Psychiatrist Dr. Surin Sehdev