A Brief History of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

Research into the use of magnetic fields and the power of magnetism to stimulate muscles and the human brain dates back at least as far as the early 1900s. The use of magnetism to treat depression dates back to the mid-1980s. Anthony Barker and Mark George are two of the scientists associated with pioneering research with TMS and the specific use of TMS to treat depression. During the 1990s, numerous studies demonstrated both the safety and effectiveness of TMS in treating depression. Neuronetics, the parent company of Neurostar, conducted the first large-scale scientifically valid study of TMS, and it was this study that led to the FDA’s approval of their device and protocol in 2008.

Insurance companies began to pay for TMS in 2013 – prior to this, people seeking relief from depression with TMS paid out of pocket for their treatment. Almost every commercial insurance company in the U.S. currently pays for TMS if a patient meets their specific clinical criteria.

Research into many possible uses of TMS apart from depression is ongoing. TMS has now been approved for the treatment of OCD (2018), although insurance companies have not yet embraced this indication. TMS is being actively used in the treatment of addictions and PTSD. The V.A. system uses TMS in treating veterans with PTSD. Some TMS offices have used TMS to treat ADHD, enhance memory, and a number of other conditions, although in most cases, the data is not yet adequate to obtain FDA approval. On the one hand, it would be premature, even foolish, to believe that TMS can treat just about every psychological condition. On the other hand, because TMS is safe and unlikely to cause any significant side effects, it may be tempting to try it for conditions for which nothing else has helped.

About Jonathan Schwartz, M.D.

Dr. Jonathan Schwartz, MD, was born in New Bedford and has been practicing adult and child psychiatry in the area for more than 30 years. He graduated from McGill University Medical school in Montreal and trained at Massachusetts General Hospital (Adult Psychiatry) and Children’s Hospital (Child Psychiatry) in Boston. Dr. Schwartz specializes in the areas of Mood Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Addictions, and ADHD. He served as the psychiatrist at U.Mass. Dartmouth from 1985 until 2016 and is currently the Medical Director at Steppingstone in Fall River, MA. Dr. Schwartz directs Concierge TMS.