Repetitive transcranial magnetic Stimulation (RTCS) is a non-invasive form of non-invasive brain stimulation where a changing magnetic field is applied to the head via magnetic signals and magnetic implants. The brain’s electrical activity is continuously recorded via electrodes placed on the scalp, or directly on the brain. These recordings are made using techniques which allow researchers to control the intensity and duration of stimulation, which in turn control the individual characteristics of this stimulation. For instance, the amount of current delivered by RTCS varies according to the state of visual processing, whereas the quality of the current can be improved by adjusting the distance between the electrodes. The stimulation then begins with a low stimulation level and gradually produces a greater current level as the visual processing state improves. This stimulation has shown promise in the fields of neurology, neuropsychology, and rehabilitation, and has also shown promise for the treatment of sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea.
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Although no clear understanding has yet been reached in these areas of study, there is some evidence that there may be antidepressant effects. In a placebo-controlled trial, depressed patients who were administered either repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation sessions or placebo sessions that consisted of transcranial alternating magnetic fields showed an improvement in mood and an increased capacity for relaxation. Though this is only one study, it is suggestive of a positive clinical effect. If this turns out to be true, it would be interesting to see if it is due to the improvement in mood or whether it reflects antidepressant efficacy of the treatment. Also of interest is the prospect that these sessions may also reduce future seizures in epileptic patients undergoing epilepsy treatment.
Currently, studies are looking into the prospects of increasing the number of trials that use repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation as a method of treating patients with neurological disorders. One such device, called the Novel Medical Device for Stimulation (NMDS), involves the use of continuous wave electrical pulses. This device has already been approved for use by the FDA and is expected to be available for sale in 2021. In the meantime, the NMDS is expected to help to raise the profile of this treatment for those suffering from chronic pain and other neurological conditions. As the clinical outcomes of this technology become more apparent, we will continue to monitor its progress and learn about the potential benefits for those with neurological disorders.