3 Ways TMS Therapy Works on the Brain

By: Jayson Tripp, MD


To Reduce Symptoms of Depression, OCD, and Other Conditions 

Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, is a non-invasive, non-systemic treatment for difficult-to-treat cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and major depression. TMS uses a magnet that delivers pulses of energy to the areas of the brain that are affected by depression and OCD.  

TMS also has very few side effects. It is a great option for people who can’t tolerate the vast amount of side effects of antidepressants, those who haven’t found relief from traditional medications, and/or those who can’t or choose not to take antidepressant medications for various reasons.  

But how does TMS actually work? In this post, we will discuss three ways TMS affects the brain, reducing symptoms of depression, OCD, and other conditions.  

1. TMS Targets Specific Areas of the Brain

The two areas of the brain that are believed to be affected by mood disorders like depression and OCD are the prefrontal cortex and the limbic system. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain associated with mood. And the limbic system is associated with emotion.  

As previously mentioned, TMS uses a magnet, which delivers pulses to the brain. During a typical TMS session, the magnet is placed directly over the prefrontal cortex and limbic system so the energy can target those cells specifically, helping the neurons fire correctly, which in turn, helps reduce the symptoms of depression, OCD, and other conditions.  

2. TMS Activates Brain Cells

The magnetic pulses delivered by TMS actually produce small electrical currents in the brain that stimulate, or activate, cells in the brain. Once these cells are activated, they produce neurotransmitters, which help the brain communicate more effectively with other parts of the body.  

This repairing of neuro-pathways could be what makes TMS a promising treatment option for degenerative neurological conditions like dementia or multiple sclerosis (M.S.). Studies on TMS  as a treatment for these and other conditions have shown promise, and in some countries outside of the U.S., TMS has even been approved to treat these conditions.  

3. TMS Helps Remodel the Brain’s Orientation Maps

TMS also affects the orientation maps in the visual part of our brain. These orientation maps are partially determined by genetics and partially determined by our surroundings. They are located in the part of our brain that helps us interpret what is around us.  

When the energy pulses from TMS activate, or turn on, cells that have been damaged by depression or another condition, studies show that the cells are more variable . In other words, the cells didn’t have a preference for performing certain functions.  

So TMS provides a window in which you can actually re-teach your brain how to more effectively interpret what is happening around you, which would most likely help improve your mood.   

To summarize, depression, OCD, and other conditions can cause certain parts of the brain to function incorrectly. TMS targets these areas and helps the neurons start firing properly again. The best part is that TMS is completely non-invasive and you don’t have to go under general anesthesia. Each session only lasts about 20–30 minutes, then you can return immediately to your daily activities.  

TMS may be a great option for you if traditional depression and OCD treatments haven’t worked. Contact us at Serenity Mental Health Centers to learn more about your options. 

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*All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.