BOSTON, MA — Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is well established for treating depression and other psychiatric disorders. Though effective, ECT produces short-term confusion and occasionally some memory loss, and patients require general anesthesia and muscle relaxants. Now a growing body of research suggests that new techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) may offer less disruptive ways to use electromagnetic energy against depression, schizophrenia, and other psychiatric disorders, reports the August issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter.
TMS works this way: An electrical generator produces a series of strong magnetic fields in a wire coil, which is mounted on a paddle and positioned on or near a patient’s forehead or scalp. The fluctuating magnetic force produces an electrical current that influences neurons in the area directly under the coil. Stimulation by TMS is much milder and more localized than ECT. The magnetic field can be applied to fully conscious patients, who feel no pain and can read or talk during the treatment and drive home afterward. Memory is not affected.
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