Transcranial magnetic stimulation: drug-free treatment for depression

- Dr. Jason Friday treats patients with depression. He uses what some would describe as a non-conventional method called TMS.

“TMS is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation,” Friday said. “So it’s a pulse magnetic field that we are able to localize in a particular area of the brain in order to stimulate the nerves within the brain, and we can actually inhibit some of the nerves within the brain."

According to Dr. Friday, the difference between pills and TMS is that TMS causes the nerves in the brain to fire as opposed to manipulating them with chemicals.

“What we found in patients with depression is the activity in their brain is low,” Dr. Friday said. “There are areas in the brain that are very low activity, so the nerves are not firing."

Andrew Rangel suffered from depression for years after losing his job. He dropped out of school and barely got out of bed. Rangel tried a long list of medications but saw minimal effects from all of them. Then he turned to TMS.

Cathy Spear, who battled depression for 20 years up, decided to do the same two months ago. She had also previously tried several medications, but without much luck.

“People would call me bashful when I was just depressed,” Spear said. “I just didn't talk. When I'd go to work, I'd do my job and go home. And then I would sit there until the next day.  Now I'm more outgoing. I've been doing a lot more with my life and I'm happier."

The treatment for TMS is non-invasive. Dr. Friday demonstrated for Fox 29 by attaching a small magnetic coil to the scalp which targets a precise location in the cortex of the brain that controls mood.

"The left side of the brain is where you see the involvement for depression,” Dr. Friday said. “[The] right side can be involved in anxiety."

Rangel speaks highly of the treatment:

“Overall, I just saw better quality of life, just joy, something I haven't felt in years,” he said. “Just pure joy."

The treatment isn’t for everyone, but those who say they had no other choice are finding much needed help.

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