A 35-year-old man had been suffering from clinical depression for five years. He was brought to psychiatrist Sanjay Chugh’s clinic in Greater Kailash, Delhi, for treatment. Dr Chugh suggested repetitive transmagnetic stimulation (rTMS) but the family was apprehensive. Dr Chugh reassured them that there would be no side effects. “My brother experienced no side effects during the treatment except a mild tapping sensation on his head and he reported no side effects after either,” said the patient’s sister.
Repetitive transmagnetic stimulation is a form of therapy where the brain is non-invasively stimulated with a magnetic coil. The treatment uses our knowledge of various regions of the brain and how they play a role in mind and body functioning. Dr Chugh says that usually “a rTMS session lasts 30 minutes and does not require anaesthesia. The patient has an electromagnetic coil held against his or her forehead near an area of the brain involved in mood regulation. Then, short electromagnetic pulses are administered through the coil”. The magnetic pulses stimulate nerve cells in the targeted brain region. The magnetic field generated by the rTMS machine is about the same strength as that of a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. Dr Chugh finds the therapy effective and uses it to treat depression, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorders and auditory hallucinations, migraine, addiction, paralysis after stroke and fibromyalgia.
In India, there are doctors who are using it to treat everything from clinical depression to attention deficit disorder (ADD) and stroke. But the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has only approved it for patients with depression, with an additional caveat that only those patients with depression who haven’t responded to medicines can be prescribed rTMS. Globally 35% of patients who seek treatment for depression don’t respond to medicines. Read More
Sujata Kelkar Shetty, PhD, writes on public health issues and is a research scientist trained at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, US.