For the first time, researchers have demonstrated what occurs in the brain while repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a treatment for depression. The American Journal of Psychiatry disclosed the results on May 18th, 2022.
A device consisting of an electromagnetic coil is pressed on the patient’s scalp throughout an rTMS session. A painless magnetic vibration is then delivered by the device, stimulating nerve cells in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a portion of the brain responsible for mood regulation.
Although rTMS has been indicated to be effective, the mechanisms behind its impacts on the brain are poorly comprehended.
“When we first started this research, the question we were asking was very simple: we wanted to know what happens to the brain when rTMS treatment is being delivered,” says Dr. Fidel Vila-Rodriguez. He is an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia’s department of psychiatry and a researcher at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health (DMCBH).
The team discovered that various other areas of the brain were also activated by stimulating the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. These different regions are involved in multiple purposes, from managing emotional reactions to memory and motor control.
“We found that regions of the brain that were activated during the concurrent rTMS-fMRI were significantly related to good outcomes,” tells Dr. Vila-Rodriguez.
“By demonstrating this principle and identifying regions of the brain that are activated by rTMS, we can now try to understand whether this pattern can be used as a biomarker,” he announces