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The Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation provides leading-edge therapies, such as TMS and tDCS, for neurologic and psychiatric conditions. Learn more about these treatment options below.
Our center is one of the world leaders in the use of TMS clinically and for research purposes. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS is a noninvasive procedure that is used to stimulate a part of the brain using a magnetic field. This magnetic field can pass through the head safely and painlessly. TMS can be used to change activity in the brain and correct abnormal activity occurring due to illness. Numerous studies have shown that TMS can have a lasting positive effect on mood in patients with depression. The form of TMS used for therapy is called Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or rTMS. A number of different protocols and devices have been cleared by the FDA for this purpose.
During a treatment session, you will be awake and sitting in a comfortable chair. A coil resembling a figure-eight will be held in place over a particular region on your head. As the current passes through the coil, it creates a magnetic field that will induce a current in your brain. People receiving TMS often describe feeling a repetitive tapping sensation on their head. The TMS coil also produces a loud clicking sound, so earplugs are always provided. Should you prefer to bring your own, our welcome packet includes a list of OSHA-approved earplugs to choose from.
Treating Depression with TMS
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is an innovative therapy for those who have moderate to severe depression that has not responded to medication. TMS works by using magnetic fields to change specific patterns of brain activity. Using TMS allows doctors to alter brain activity without surgery and with minimal discomfort to the patient.
We conducted the first double blind clinical trial of TMS in depression and in our clinical program have successfully treated many patients who had not responded to other approaches. Patients can derive a sustained improvement in their depression, enabling more fulfilling lives.
Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The FDA has cleared a number of devices and treatment protocols for use in the treatment of depression in individuals who have not benefited from prior antidepressant medication. We offer treatment with a variety of these approved machines. The Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation is proud to have been the first to offer this therapy to patients in the Boston area.
Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) is a noninvasive brain stimulation treatment that uses weak electrical currents applied to the head in order to enhance brain activity. tDCS is used as a tool in neuroscience research, as well as for the assessment and treatment of various neuropsychiatric conditions such as mental disorders.
tDCS has the distinct advantages of being inexpensive, easy to administer, noninvasive and painless. Recent studies support a therapeutic potential of tDCS in patients with epilepsy, chronic pain, stroke recovery and rehabilitation, cognitive rehabilitation, and various neuropsychiatric disorders. tDCS has not been approved by the FDA for any therapeutic applications and treatments are thus considered an "off-label" use and may not be covered by medical insurance.
What Does tDCS Feel Like?
During a treatment session, the tDCS machine uses a small electric current similar to that of a 9-volt battery to stimulate a patient's brain. (For the sake of comparison, a 9-volt battery is typically used for home fire alarms). Electrodes (sponges soaked in salt water) are placed over certain parts of the head. The electrodes are held in place using a rubber headband. The direct current flows through the electrodes, penetrating a patient's scalp, and creating a flow of electrical current in the brain. Usually patients feel a slight itching or tingling on their scalp.
Brain stimulation techniques such as TMS and tDCS can be applied to different brain areas with the goal of treating other conditions. Research is ongoing to determine whether these techniques are effective to treat certain kinds of chronic pain, epilepsy, schizophrenia, tinnitus and chronic motor conditions like ataxia. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved the use of TMS or tDCS for these conditions. However, TMS and tDCS can sometimes be used as "off-label" treatments when deemed clinically appropriate, though they are considered investigational (not proven). As such, for any of these treatment indications, we do a complete neurological evaluation with all prospective patients to ensure there are no safety contraindications, and acquire informed consent to ensure that all patients are aware that the treatments are considered off-label.