TMS is fast acting, FDA-approved, medication-free and covered by most insurance providers.
The Brain as an Electrical Organ
One area of the brain that we are interested in is called the “prefrontal cortex”. It is located right behind your forehead. It is the “command and control” center of the brain and is responsible for sensible thinking and evening out mood. The other area that is important in depression and anxiety is the “limbic system”.
It can be over-active in depression and anxiety. The prefrontal cortex, when it is working, calms down that area of the brain. When it is underperforming, our emotions run our thoughts so that when our mind is at rest, it becomes filled with negativity (self-doubt, worrying about things in the past, replaying old mistakes, hopelessness about the future, suicidal thoughts, etc.).
An example Dr. Fox often gives is this:
Imagine you see someone you know with a scowl or a sour look on their face. When we’re depressed, we may say “What did I do to ruin their day?” or “Why are the mad at me?”. But when we’re doing well, we may still have that initial reaction but automatically step back and say to ourselves “Well, I haven’t seen them in a while” or “Maybe someone else ruined their day.” The automatic reaction is the “limbic system”. The secondary reaction is the prefrontal cortex. In depression, we just don’t have that control or feedback anymore. Depression is an anatomical illness of the brain and can be seen, interacted with, and made better. Frequently after TMS, patients tell me that their negative thoughts simply go away.
The Connected Brain
We know that neurons that “fire together, wire together” and vice versa. The brain is like a muscle, “if you don’t use it, you lose it”. The brain can actually shrink in certain areas when we are depressed and then get bigger again when we’re no longer depressed. This change in size is due to how many connections that part of the brain has. By waking up parts of the brain, we are increasing the number and strength of connections so people are lifted out of depression. Just like going to the gym daily and lifting weights for a short period of time can increase muscle size, so too can daily TMS increase connections in the brain. This increase in strength allows more control from the prefrontal cortex to even out mood.