Transcranial magnetic stimulation may seem a little futuristic; after all, how can a machine that never touches your head improve your depression symptoms?
First, it is important to understand how the depressed brain is different from a non-depressed brain. While there are many suspected causes of depression, one hypothesis states that the left side of the prefrontal cortex is underactive in depressed patients. This area plays a role in regulating mood, specifically by promoting positive feelings and down-regulating negative emotion centers in the brain.
TMS treats depression by combatting this lack of activity in the left prefrontal cortex. Using small, repeated electromagnetic pulses, the neurons in this area become more excited and increase production of mood-boosting neurotransmitters. This treatment method has been proven to help up to fifty-percent of patients with treatment resistant depression, a staggering number considering how many of these patients failed to see improvements with more than one antidepressant medication.
Check out the video below to hear more about TMS response rates.