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In 2008, individuals with major depression could begin to undergo a non-invasive treatment called standard rTMS (repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation). The depression treatment would relay electromagnetic pulses from a handheld device to control brain regions’ neural activity.
However, despite its safety and efficacy in relieving depression symptoms, the device’s figure-8 shape had two primary drawbacks:
In response, Israeli company BrainsWay built upon the standard rTMS to present Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (DTMS) therapy.
Like standard rTMS, dTMS therapy incorporates magnetic pulses to control the neural activity of brain regions associated with major depressive disorder (MDD). It uses a novel patented H-coil structure (that is, it is unique and cannot be copied) to make the most of electrical stimulation of deep brain structures and decrease the likelihood of targeting errors.
Further, unlike standard rTMS, it also treats other mental illnesses such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Deep TMS treatment has received approval for the treatment of depression and OCD from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2013 and 2018. It is also CE-marked in Europe for those and other mental health conditions, meaning that this line of therapy meets EU safety, health, and environmental protection requirements.
Lastly, those who are eligible candidates for deep TMS therapy can receive daily sessions without the need for anesthesia or recovery.
Deep TMS is a non-invasive approach of brain stimulation that occurs through electromagnetic currents being sent through a helmet containing a patented H-coil. The H-coil has three significant advantages when compared to the figure-8 coil of standard rTMS:
The coil relays short magnetic pulses, similar to those in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines, through the skull and into the target brain areas.
Treatment sessions last approximately 20 minutes; however, the activation of deep brain structures and the use of magnetic fields influence the neural activity to leave significant improvements in medical health conditions.
In the United States, the FDA has granted clearance status for the treatment of MDD and OCD in adults aged 18 or older. However, for individuals to be eligible candidates for deep TMS sessions, they must meet specific criteria per FDA requirements.
For example, in the case of MDD, individuals must demonstrate a lack of significant improvements from an antidepressant medication in a current episode.
Approximately 11 million American adults aged 18 or older experienced at least one major depressive episode with severe impairment in 2017.
Insurance providers in the United States may request that individuals meet additional criteria, such as:
In the European Union, though, BrainsWay’s Deep TMS device can also be used to treat individuals with additional medical conditions:
Side effects of DTMS treatment sessions will vary according to the disease being treated.
In the treatment of major depressive disorder, common side effects include:
Although differences were not significant in treatment vs. placebo studies, other symptoms that may present as a result of DTMS treatment include:
In the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder, side effects may include:
Overall, deep TMS therapy is a safe and effective treatment with no permanent or significant side effects.
Although dTMS therapy has not received clearance status from the FDA for treatment in substance addiction, it has proven otherwise promising based on studies conducted outside of the U.S.
In one study exploring the use of dTMS therapy in abstinent individuals with alcohol use disorder (alcoholism), authors reported that such treatment may have contributed to a reduction in cravings and relapse rates.
In a separate study by Dinur-Klein et al., investigators assessed the efficacy of dTMS in the prefrontal cortex and the insula (located deep in the cerebral cortex) in 115 individuals who would smoke 20 or more cigarettes per day.
The findings showed that the study subjects who received high-frequency dTMS and were exposed to smoking cues (or triggers) had a response rate of 81%. Also, in a 6-month follow-up post-treatment, the complete abstinence rate was 33%.
These investigative reports suggest that dTMS therapy could have a more integral role in the treatment of substance addictions. This implication also extends to individuals with a dual diagnosis (that is, suffering from a mental health issue while with a substance abuse problem).
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“BrainsWay Deep TMS - Helping People Quit Smoking.” BrainsWay, 10 June 2020, www.brainsway.com/treatments/smoking-cessation-addictions/.
Harel, Maayan, et al. “O7. Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Over the Medial Prefrontal and Anterior Cingulate Cortices Alters Brain Connectivity and Reduces Relapse to Alcohol Use.” Biological Psychiatry, vol. 85, no. 10, 2019, doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2019.03.272.
“Major Depression.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Feb. 2019, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml.
Mennitto, Donna. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, 5 Feb. 2019, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/psychiatry/specialty_areas/brain_stimulation/tms/.