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Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Treats Mild to Moderate Depression

By Michael Haederle | January 30, 2018

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Settling back into the comfortably padded chair, you might well be reminded of a checkup at the dentist’s office.

But then a black plastic contraption attached to a steel arm is positioned close to your head, at a point a few inches above your left eyebrow. Someone flips a switch, and for a few seconds you experience a strange staccato tapping sensation, as if a tiny woodpecker was hammering away at your scalp.

That’s how people typically describe treatments with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), an FDA-approved method for treating depression that is quickly gaining in popularity.

“TMS is optimally used in mild to moderate depression that has not responded to pharmacotherapy or psychotherapy,” says Davin Quinn, MD, associate professor in UNM’s Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. “It takes several weeks for the benefits to start to accrue, and the effects last for months after the treatment has been stopped.”

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