The History of TMS in Depression Treatment

May 11, 2023 - neurocare group

Depression is a mental health condition that affects millions of people around the world, greatly impacting the lives of sufferers. Some of the sufferers do not respond to traditional treatments, such as medication and psychotherapy, some other experience considerable side effects. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy is a non-pharmacological  treatment option for depression that has gained popularity in recent years. But what does this therapy consist of and is it really effective on depression?

What is TMS therapy and how does it work?

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a non-pharmacological therapy for depression. It is a non-invasive neuromodulation treatment which consists in the delivery of repeated small electromagnetic fields, originated from a coil, that stimulates the patient's brain tissue.

TMS is able to excite or inhibit the activity of neurons in certain areas of brain, in order to restore proper operation and decrease depressive symptoms.

TMS is a completely painless and safe therapy, administered following international safety guidelines and free of notable side effects. The number of sessions depends on the type of clinical protocol and the first results are already noticeable after the first few sessions.

What is the history of TMS and when did it first start becoming a mainstream treatment?

As with a range of medical treatments, the beneficial effects of TMS on depression were a chance and fortunate discovery. A. Barker in 1985 was the first researcher to stimulate the brain motor cortex.

The stimulation triggered a motor response, namely a movement of the hand. When he subsequently succeeded in prolonging the duration of the occurrence of this motor response, he found that the type of stimulation had an inhibitory effect.

Fundamental to investigations of rTMS as a treatment for mood disorders was a study conducted by R.G. Bickford a few years later, in 1987. He used rTMS to stimulate the motor cortex in healthy subjects, who subsequently reported spontaneous improvements in mood.

Why choose TMS therapy for the treatment of Depression?

Several studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of TMS. The therapy works particularly well and is highly recommended for those who have not responded to traditional medication for depression. This type of treatment also avoids the side effects associated with antidepressant medications.

The magnetic stimulation encourages the brain cells to naturally release the chemicals necessary to properly regulate our mood. It feels like a flicking sensation to the head. With correct screening procedures there are no serious side effects, other than a mild focal headache. This makes TMS safe and effective for many patient groups.

In general, TMS therapy for depression is safe, natural and medication-free. It shows scientifically proven, positive and fast improvements without being accompanied by side effects usually associated with medication.

Find your personalized solution for Depression

Do you find yourself in this article?

Are you struggling with Depression?

Are you not responding to medications?

Or did reading this post make you think about someone who might need help and support?

If you think you may have depression, it's important to seek professional treatment and care. With the right support, you can manage and overcome it.

Get more detailed information about TMS, find clinics and find out about the therapeutic programs neurocare offers.



1. Tatti et al., "Boosting psychological change: Combining non-invasive brain stimulation with psychotherapy", 2022

2. Donse et al., "Simultaneous rTMS and psychotherapy in major depressive disorder", 2018

3. Isserles et al., "Cognitive-emotional reactivation during deep transcranial magnetic stimulation over the prefrontal cortex of depressive patients affects antidepressant outcome", 2011


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