TMS and the Future of Psychiatry: Unlocking Hope and Healing 

Nov 22, 2023 | TMS Therapy

Psychiatry has advanced at a rapid pace over the past few decades, leading to critical advancements in treatment options with the evolution of the field. For patients with major depressive disorder, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has been one of the most exciting options to emerge, and it’s available in Saratoga Springs, exclusively at the practice of Manuel Astruc, M.D. & Associates — the only TMS therapy provider in the county.  

For too long, a treatment gap left many patients struggling to find relief. Imagine navigating life walking through a dense black fog that finally begins to lighten and ultimately dissipate to allow the sun to shine through. That’s how some patients describe the results of TMS therapy.  

In recent years, TMS has gained traction and garnered significant attention for its efficacy in providing relief for treatment-resistant depression. Additionally, it also shows promising potential beyond treating this single condition. With researchers and clinicians exploring potential applications in various psychiatric disorders, it’s possible that TMS could be a key component in the future of successful therapy.  

Let’s explore what this treatment is and how it works to gain a better understanding of this innovative, noninvasive therapy option.  

Understanding TMS 

TMS is a treatment modality approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It uses magnets to stimulate specific areas of the brain. Specifically, magnetic pulses create electrical fields that cross the scalp and skull and interact with the surface of the brain to activate the cells that generate serotonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters.  

These are the chemicals in your brain that carry signals from your nerve cells to other nerve cells, glands, and muscle cells. They control many bodily functions, including your thoughts, feelings, memory, and stress response. In fact, serotonin and dopamine are two of the primary neurotransmitters impacting mental health. 

What Makes TMS Therapy Different  

Antidepressants work by stimulating neurons, which are receptors found on brain cells that can be stimulated or blocked. The result of the stimulation is the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin. However, these medications can interact with various receptors, stimulating and blocking different neurotransmitters in various parts of the brain and body. This action contributes to the side effects many people experience. Additionally, a third or more of patients fail to respond to traditional antidepressants. 

By taking an entirely different approach, TMS provides an entirely new way to treat mental health conditions. It works by providing noninvasive brain stimulation without medication or medication-related side effects. It can produce a tingling sensation in the scalp that quickly resolves after treatment sessions and comes with a very low risk of seizures. Treatment is administered under medical supervision and produces effective results without relying on medications or affecting the memory. 

How TMS Works 

TMS offers new hope and a noninvasive treatment alternative with none of the side effects of traditional treatments. It uses a strong magnetic field, similar to what’s used for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) testing, to alter the impulses inside patients’ brains. This process allows TMS treatments to target the precise areas in need of correcting.  

TMS Treatment Sessions 

During treatment sessions, a cap is placed on your head that delivers magnetic pulses. These magnetic pulses transform into electrical fields that cross the surface of the brain. The pulses are delivered in short bursts, with a brief rest period in between. The average treatment session lasts 30 minutes, and patients receive five treatments a week for four to six weeks.  

TMS in the Treatment of Depression 

Although TMS use is expanding as a treatment option, it’s currently FDA-approved for treatment-resistant depression, a condition that is marked by depression that fails to respond to one or more antidepressants. The good news is that studies of TMS’s efficacy demonstrate that patients who fail to respond to medications enjoy a 50% to 70% response rate. The stimulation created by TMS therapy forms new neural pathways, which offers long-term relief from the symptoms of depression for many patients. 

Beyond Depression 

Although it’s unclear how long results last, approximately 70% of patients enjoy results that last a minimum of one year. Follow-up treatment offers a quick tune-up, allowing patients to regain their sense of hope and joy in their lives.  

TMS has the potential to provide help beyond relief from symptoms of depression. As researchers and clinicians continue exploring, this effective treatment option shows promise in relieving the symptoms of various psychiatric conditions. It has been used as an off-label treatment for many conditions, including the following: 

Anxiety Disorders 

By targeting parts of the brain that contribute to mood regulation, TMS may help treat anxiety. Medication and psychotherapy are still first-line treatment options. However, when traditional treatments fail to deliver results, TMS may be a game changer for generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.  

Bipolar Disorder 

Researchers are still exploring how TMS can alleviate bipolar disorder. Data suggests TMS can improve the symptoms of bipolar depression. Studies on bipolar disorder and TMS are so promising that the FDA granted TMS status as a “breakthrough device” for treating bipolar disorder in 2020. The designation signals ample interest in its treatment potential. 

Schizophrenia 

Research also indicates TMS could have positive effects on the symptoms of schizophrenia. When traditional schizophrenia treatments fail, studies show that TMS can reduce symptoms. Participants of clinical studies reported being able to think more clearly and feel more alert. Other benefits include: 

  • Reduced severity of auditory hallucinations 
  • Increased relaxation capabilities 
  • Boosted concentration and cognitive function 
  • Increased attention and ability to concentrate 
  • Improved hallucination manageability 

Addiction 

TMS can change the firing patterns in the brain. By targeting those affected by addiction, this treatment poses a new and exciting way to mitigate the symptoms of addiction. It may produce anti-craving effects for certain substances. Although research is ongoing, the potential for TMS addiction therapy, as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, holds promise and hope for the future. 

Future of Psychiatry with TMS 

Psychiatry has come so far in recent years, and the future looks increasingly bright and promising. TMS has the potential to lead the path forward in noninvasive, highly effective treatment options.  

Personalized Treatment 

TMS treatments utilize a specialized cap-like device outfitted with magnetic coils. The supervising team performs brain mapping during the initial treatment session. This process identifies the proper stimulation locations and provides the unique motor threshold for each patient. These data points allow the treatment team to customize the treatment to each individual. 

Reduced Side Effects 

Unlike traditional psychiatric medications, TMS does not have long-term side effects. You won’t experience sleepiness, weight gain, and sexual problems, as many people do with medications. It’s also not habit-forming and won’t leave you feeling groggy. In fact, you can drive and go about your day as soon as your treatment session ends.  

Expanded Accessibility 

As research continues and the use of TMS expands, access to this innovative mental health treatment is also expanding. A growing number of insurance carriers are taking part in policy expansions to increase access to TMS for qualifying patients. As TMS therapy expands to help additional conditions, a wider population will be able to take advantage of it.  

Here in Saratoga County, patients have access to TMS therapy with Manuel Astruc, MD. Simply fill out an online TMS therapy questionnaire or contact the office to find out if you’re a suitable candidate. 

Explore TMS Therapy for Your Future 

Relief is just a phone call away. TMS therapy has the potential to help patients regain their joy and get back to feeling like themselves. Find out if TMS could work for you.  

Call Manuel Astruc, MD today at 518-240-1088.