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The Future Is Now? Rapid Advances by Brain Stimulation Innovation

By Linda L. Carpenter, M.D., Noah S. Philip, M.D.

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While brain stimulation with magnetic fields may still seem like a “new” approach to many clinicians, more than a decade has passed since the first transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) device for treating major depressive disorder received regulatory approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Six other TMS devices have since been cleared for treatment-resistant depression in the United States, and multiple others have received similar regulatory approvals elsewhere around the world.

It has been estimated that around 20 million TMS treatment sessions have been delivered since 2009 (personal communications with Magstim, Neuronetics, and BrainsWay representatives), and naturalistic treatment studies (1) suggest that over half of depressed patients treated with TMS will benefit. These outcomes are remarkable for a population that has typically suffered for years or decades through multiple failed medication trials, often with severe and disabling symptoms, before trying TMS therapy.

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