"I've got something I wanna play for you."

Transcranial magnetic stimulation, a technique for treating clinical depression, works by creating an electromagnetic pulse that doesn't disturb the skull or scalp, but can reach two to three centimeters into the brain to stimulate the prefrontal cortex and paralimbic blood flow, increasing the serotonin output and the dopamine and norepinephrine functions.

"In older patients where the brain has shrunk, we have to be very careful to get any results."

Side effects include post-application headaches, muscle twitches and pain at the application site. The risk of seizure remains, but researchers worked very hard to avoid them, and they occurred very rarely.


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19 Responses:

  1. lifelike001 says:

    im currently attempting to get onto a clinical trial of TMS. should i become in any way bionic with the superpowers and wearing my underpants on the outside of my trousers, i promise the internet will, nay MUST, know.

  2. quercus says:

    Burn With Me!

  3. Don't forget the open-rTMS project, which is working to make transcranial magnetic stimulation freely available to anyone, in their living room.

  4. jkonrath says:

    I don't know if it's a related technology, but they're finding that people suffering from bipolar depression that get a head MRI will temporarily have an improvement in mood. (See http://www.hno.harvard.edu/gazette/2004/01.22/01-depression.html)

    Too bad a head MRI costs about a grand or two a pop, or I'd ditch the meds and do one of those every week.

  5. xinit says:

    They say that magnets stimulate paralimbic blood flow...

    ... but magnets don't affect blood or blood flow at all.

    • fantasygoat says:

      Really big ones would.

      • xinit says:

        I suppose, if it was large enough to attract your blood via GRAVITY, as blood and flesh aren't magnetic.

        MRIs use some of the largest magnets I can fathom, and they couldn't affect bloodflow without screwing up what they show.

        • fantasygoat says:

          Isn't there iron in blood?

          • xinit says:

            Yes, there is. It's about as magnetic as plastic...

            "Iron atoms in a magnet are crammed together in a solid state about one atom apart from one another. In your blood only four iron atoms are allocated to each hemoglobin molecule, and they are separated by distances too great to form a magnet. This is easily tested by pricking your finger and placing a drop of your blood next to a magnet. " --Michael Shermer*


            To be fair, the above link mostly talks about magnetic therapy with static magnets. An MRI wouldn't likely pull blood out of your flesh though...

          • xinit says:

            Turns out it's basically shock therapy without the drooling... but with the potential for seizures and Bad Things...

            It's basically "shock therapy" without all the drooling and without the stick to bite down on... I bounced it off a neurologist and asked him if this was a load of crazy. Apparently it's been studied testing since the effect was noticed in the 1980s. Trouble is it seems like it's still pretty much hit and miss and very much electro-shocky.


            This is one of those things that superficially sounds fishy but actually it's legit. This is basically the successor to electroconvulsive therapy. We have known for decades that severe refractory depression can be significantly improved by essentially inducing a seizure in the patient. Over the years investigators have been revising the techniques to make it less invasive, more selective, and more benign with fewer side effects. TMS is the latest manifestation of this. Instead of using an electrical stimulation, it induces electrical currents in the brain using a magnetic field. This disrupts brain function temporarily without inducing a seizure (most of the time).

            There is a fairly large body of research on this, with many well-designed trials showing a significant effect (here is a list on PubMed: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?CMD=search&DB=pubmed) Researchers are working out the details - location, intensity, schedule, etc.- to optimize the therapeutic effect and minimize the side effects. There is also evidence that TMS potentiates the effects of medication.

            Steve Novella"

  6. buz says:

    And in other unrelated news, a strange wave of hard drives being wiped clean in and around psychiatrist's offices has been occurring in major metropolitan areas. A crack team of highly qualified investigators from DoHS suspect this is an act of cyber-terrorism.

  7. kallisti says:

    It would be nice to have someone "make my day", But please, not to often, I don't want to turn into a wirehead!


  8. The kinder gentler version of ECT.
    They both seem to work, tho, so ....

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