Brain Stimulation (or Neuromodulation)

In these types of medical procedures, electrical or magnetic currents are used to stimulate the brain and alter (or “modulate”) brain activity, which can help relieve symptoms of depression and other conditions.

  • rTMS (Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation). This involves stimulating the brain with a magnetic field.   A magnet is applied to the scalp daily for about 40 minutes, over several weeks. The treatment is done in an office setting, and does not require anesthesia.  rTMS treatment is extremely safe and has been approved for treating adults with depression that has not improved with antidepressant medication.  In fact, rTMS can be an attractive alternative for individuals who do not wish to take medications.  Delivering pure energy to specific parts of the brain avoids the widespread side effects that medications can have.

People have what is called “treatment-resistant depression” if their symptoms have not improved after trying numerous courses of medicine and/or therapy  For these individuals, more potent brain stimulation techniques may provide relief when other treatments have not worked.

  • ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy) is usually used for people with severe depression, including people who do not respond to medications. ECT applies brief electrical pulses to the brain through electrodes attached to the scalp.  This is done over a series of treatments, although it is not considered to be a non-invasive procedure because anesthesia and other medications are given through an IV. This approach has also been proven safe and effective for treating depression and a variety of other mental disorders.

These treatments are available through the U-M Health System to those who meet certain criteria – find out more.



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