TMS & other Brain Stimulation

A program of research at MAPrc, headed by Professor Paul Fitzgerald, which aims to use advanced neuroscience technology to develop innovative mental health treatments. These techniques include:

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

TMS uses a very focused magnetic field to stimulate nerve cells in the surface areas of the brain. Magnetic pulses are applied using a coil resting lightly on the person’s head. When a number of TMS pulses are given consecutively, it is called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). rTMS is used to treat disorders in which parts of the brain are either underactive or overactive, such as depression and schizophrenia. Research over the past 20 years has found rTMS to be a safe and potentially effective treatment, with no major adverse effects. rTMS is given to patients who are awake and alert and who are usually able to function completely normally immediately after treatment.  rTMS has now been approved for treatment in a number of Western countries including the US. The TMS program at MAPrc is exploring ways of refining and improving the delivery of this treatment.

Research into a form of ‘Deep TMS’ as a treatment for symptoms of Autism and Asperger’s Disorder has also begun at MAPrc.

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS)

tDCS is another non-invasive technique for stimulating brain activity. It was originally thought of in the 1950s, but has only recently been rediscovered and investigated as a potential means of treating mental illnesses such as depression. tDCS uses a very gentle electrical current to change the activity level of cells in specific areas of the brain. The low current is not enough to cause brain cells to fire, but it changes their readiness to fire. Like TMS, tDCS has been shown to be safe, with minimal side-effects. It is being studied for its potential to treat chronic pain, epilepsy, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and depression.

At MAPrc we are studying potential uses of TMS and tDCS in the treatment of:
• depression
• depression following a head injury
• bipolar disorder
• schizophrenia and Schizoaffective disorder
• autism and Asperger’s disorder
• addiction.

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)

DBS is a neurosurgical procedure that involves the precise implantation of very small electrodes into targeted regions of the brain. These electrodes are powered by a stimulating battery which is implanted under the skin in the chest. The type of stimulation that is delivered can be adjusted using an external remote control which is operated by the treating doctor. While the exact mechanisms of action of DBS remain the subject of speculation, its broad aim is the therapeutic modulation of local and connected brain activity.

DBS was developed approximately 15 years ago. It has been rapidly adopted as a treatment for neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, and very recently a small number of research investigations have begun looking at its potential to treat mental illness.

MAPrc are currently investigating DBS as a treatment option for severe treatment resistant depression. To find out more please visit the Deep Brain Stimulation for Treatment Resistant Major Depression section of the MAPrc website.

 MAPrc Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre, Level 4, 607 St Kilda Road, Melbourne 3004

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