Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Antidepressants and psychotherapy have traditionally been at the front line in the treatment of depression. However, these treatments do not always work in all patients all of the time. In unipolar, treatment resistant depression, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) may be the new groundbreaking alternative treatment.

rTMS is a noninvasive procedure that passes a magnetic pulse through the brain to stimulate nerve cells in the regions associated with depression.

The therapy works by placing an electromagnetic coil onto the scalp which creates a current to the cortex. The current is completely painless and causes the depolarisation and stimulation of the local cortical region. This is in the hope that it will activate regions of the brain that may have decreased in activity as a result of depression.

Clinical experience shows that people who have been depressed for a long time will take longer to respond to rTMS than those who have only been depressed for a short time.   

As of 2015 rTMS has been approved by The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a treatment for depression and there has even been increasing evidence to show its effectiveness as a complementary treatment for addiction. A pilot study published in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology suggests rTMS may become an effective medical treatment for patients with cocaine addiction.

According to Dr Antonello Bonci (Scientific Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse) “rTMS is a non-invasive and very safe therapeutic approach which is used with other mental health and neurological conditions, such as depression and neuropathic pain. Our study suggests that rTMS may also represent a new treatment for patients with cocaine use disorder.”

A similar preliminary study in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences showed rTMS treatment to be effective in treating nicotine cravings.

In terms of seeking out this treatment, Smart TMS in London has successfully launched its program this year. According to their Medical Director Dr Leigh Neal: “When we started providing rTMS for depression in April 2016 we expected it to be effective based on the published scientific evidence, but we were not expecting to see the degree of recovery in people who have been chronically depressed for many years and in particular the marked increase in motivation and energy levels that the treatment provided, without any of the side effects people commonly experience when taking antidepressant medication.”

Smart TMS is run out of the Smart Clinics in South Kensington. Currently rTMS treatment is covered by Aviva private health insurance.

To find out more about their treatment program and to get in touch with doctors at the Smart TMS, you can find their website here.