4 Most Common Types of Brain Stimulation Therapy


Brain stimulation therapies have been getting a lot of focus lately. Researchers are still exploring the full range of use for them. While these therapies still have a stigma attached to them, for many people suffering from chronic or treatment-resistant mental conditions, these therapies provide life-saving relief. These are the 4 most common types of brain stimulation therapies used today.


Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy

TMS therapy sends rapid pulses of magnetic fields to stimulate targeted areas of the brain. It’s been proven to be an effective method of treating treatment resistant depression, as well as other mental conditions. This procedure is noninvasive, painless, and is performed on an outpatient basis.


TMS isn’t the most effective form of brain stimulation therapy but it does have the fewest side effects. It’s a painless procedure, whose only side effects are headaches or mild soreness on the scalp. There is also no memory loss and patients are fully alert during the process. In fact, patients are even okay to drive themselves home after an appointment.


Electroconvulsive (ECT) Therapy

ECT is one of the oldest types of brain stimulation therapy. It unfortunately has a heavy stigma against it. An early crude version of it was often used forcibly on psychiatric patients in the past. However, it’s far safer these days. Electric currents are sent into the brain creating controlled seizures.


There are some side effects to ECT, which is why many don’t try this first. Memory loss is common, although not as severe as it was in the past. Nausea, headaches, jaw pain, and muscle aches are also commonly reported. ECT is more effective than TMS though, which makes it popular.


Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) Therapy

This form of brain stimulation therapy is reserved for the most severe cases with patients who have major depressive disorder and have sought at least four other treatments before. The vagus nerve is one of 12 pairs of cranial nerves. VNS is considered an invasive procedure, as a pacemaker like device is surgically inserted (although the brain is not touched during the procedure) which sends mild pulses of electrical energy to the brain via the vagus nerve.


Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Therapy

DBS is another invasive form of brain stimulation therapy. A surgical implant sends controlled electrical simulation to targeted areas of the brain. It works like a pacemaker, stimulating the areas of the brain that control the receptors responsible for the symptoms. This therapy, like VNS, is reserved for serious cases where other forms of treatment have failed.

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