Thomasina Bedingfield has battled major depression for 50 years and dealt with endless failed treatments.
“When I was 22, they were giving me tranquilizers,” said Bedingfield.
“She was taking a number of medications, but despite that was still very anxious, having trouble functioning, crying all the time,” said Dr. Barry Ginsberg, chief of psychiatry at Beverly Hospital, a member of Lahey Health.
“It involves stimulating a particular area of the brain with a rapidly pulsating, strong magnetic field,” said Ginsberg.
That area, the left, prefrontal cortex, is believed to regulate mood, and when someone’s depressed, isn’t as active as it should be.
The FDA-approved treatment kicks it back into high gear with magnetic pulses about the strength of an MRI.
“You do see people who’ve just had a response to TMS that they don’t get to anything else,” said Ginsberg.
That includes people like Bedingfield, with major depression who’ve tried antidepressants without success. According to studies, two out of three feel better and one in three patients are completely symptom-free after six weeks of treatment.
“It’s just as effective, maybe even more effective, for people who are earlier in their course of depression,” said Ginsberg.
In extremely rare cases, TMS therapy can cause seizures, but “that’s less than one in every 10,000 treatments,” said Ginsberg.
The most common complaint is a tapping feeling during the 37-minute treatment. “It’s slightly unpleasant at the first treatment, and after that, it’s nothing at all. People oftentimes go to sleep during the sessions,” said Ginsberg.
Treatments initially are five days a week for four to six weeks. “When I got halfway through, I knew I was better,” said Bedingfield.
Experts say the sky’s the limit for this new technology and are researching other uses from weight loss to treating pain disorders and migraines.