An Aalto-led team is developing new transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) technology to treat pain, depression and other neurological conditions. The aim is faster and more effective treatment.
Imagine experiencing chronic pain or depression so severe that no medication will bring relief.
Such conditions may not be common, but they do exist. For patients fortunate enough to receive professional help, treatment often involves a combination of different therapies. One of these is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).
The thought of having an electric current pulsed into your brain is an unnerving one, yet the procedure is completely painless. A specially-designed electromagnetic coil is placed on the head to induce a magnetic field pulse in the brain that in turn produces an electric field and a specific neural response. All the patient feels is a light tapping sensation, as if someone’s finger is repeatedly touching their scalp.
A TMS session lasts between 15 and 30 minutes, during which time the patient receives between 1,000 and 3,000 stimulations. Depending on the condition being treated, the frequency is adjusted to either speed up or slow down the firing of neurons.
“Your brain is an information-processing system that generates electric currents,” says Professor Risto Ilmoniemi, who heads Aalto University’s Department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering. “Every thought you have, and every action you perform, generates a magnetic field in and around your brain. It’s roughly one billionth of the earth’s field.”