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By Dr. David Woo - December 19, 2022
Exciting advances in medical technology have created promising new treatment options for mental health and brain therapy. Two of these, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and neurofeedback, are gaining popularity as non-invasive, medication-free options. Read on to learn more about these therapies and which one might be right for you.
What is TMS?
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a therapy that uses electromagnetic pulses to stimulate brain activity. In a TMS session, typically about 20 minutes long, patients wear a helmet equipped with a special coil that emits a magnetic field in repetitive waves. This magnetic stimulation travels through the scalp and into the brain, regulating neuronal activity.
By focusing on the specific area of the brain related to mood, TMS can correct neural imbalances causing the symptoms of depression and other mental health conditions. As balance is restored to this underactive region, symptoms can decrease or be completely eliminated.
What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback, also referred to as electroencephalographic (EGG) biofeedback, teaches patients to control their own brain function. It works by measuring brain waves and providing negative or positive neural feedback.(1)
During a neurofeedback session, a patient’s head will be fitted with small electrodes through which a computer reads their brain activity. While this is happening, the patient will engage in some activity. For example, the patient may play a video game while the computer gives feedback to the patient based on the brain waves they are producing. The computer will reward desirable brain waves with progress in the video game; when undesirable brain waves are detected, the video game may stop progressing or the screen may get dim.(2)
Choosing Between TMS and Neurofeedback
The general idea behind TMS and neurofeedback is the same.
The root cause of a mental health condition is often a simple imbalance in brain activity. When a brain structure or neural network is overactive, underactive, or out of balance, this can result in complications depending on what functions it is responsible for.
The brain is designed to regulate itself; however, imbalances can occur for many reasons. TMS and neurofeedback both aim to return the brain back to a balanced state where it can once again moderate itself.
Both TMS and neurofeedback are noninvasive, medication-free outpatient procedures.
These therapies require no implants or surgical procedures and can be administered without prescription drugs. Patients who are currently taking medication for their condition may continue doing so while utilizing either treatment option.
You and your healthcare provider can take your individual condition, preferences and other factors into account to decide which approach is best for you.
TMS has been approved by the FDA for use with major depressive disorder (MDD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and anxious depression.
While the neurofeedback device has been FDA-approved, its technical use is only for stress relief, and it is currently not approved for use with any mental health conditions.
While TMS therapy is covered by many insurance policies, neurofeedback is not covered at this time. If you are interested in TMS therapy, read here to learn more about insurance coverage and how to find out if your plan covers the treatment.
Contact Us Today To Learn More About TMS Therapy
Are you or a loved one struggling with symptoms of depression, OCD, or anxiety? Have you been taking medication but not seeing positive results?
If so, please contact us today by visiting us online or by calling us at 212.731.2033.
1. Marzbani H, Marateb HR, Mansourian M. Neurofeedback: A Comprehensive Review on System Design, Methodology and Clinical Applications. Basic Clin Neurosci. 2016;7(2):143-158. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4892319/. Accessed November 10, 2022.
2. Mercado, J., Espinosa-Curiel, I., Escobedo, L. et al. Developing and evaluating a BCI video game for neurofeedback training: the case of autism. Multimed Tools Appl 78, 13675–13712 (2019). https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11042-018-6916-2. Accessed November 10, 2022.
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