From the Desk of Dr. Kent

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The History of TMS

The earliest known attempts at brain stimulation using electromagnetic stimulation date back as far as 1896 by Jacques-Arsene d'Arsonval of Paris and Silvanus P. Thompson (1910) in London. It wasn’t until 1985 that there was a successful demonstration of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) by Anthony Barker and his colleagues at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, England. (1) Anthony Barker and associates essentially took a single Faraday coil (invented in1831) to the scalp above the left cerebral motor strip and saw movement in the right hand. They did this on themselves. In the included photo he’s on the right. It immediately garnered widespread excitement and interest in the international research community. This was the first time that electromagnetic stimulation of the brain showed a direct tissue response. Anthony Barker PhD was credited with the discovery of TMS.

What followed was an exponential growth in international research on brain stimulation. Today the field has it’s own scholarly journal aptly named Brain Stimulation. At the 2nd International conference on Brain Stimulation Conference in Barcelona, Spain on 3/6/17, Anthony Barker, PhD was awarded the International Brain Stimulation award. I had the privilege of meeting and talking with Dr. Barker at the conference (see included photo with award). This conference was attended by an estimated 1000 people from all over the world represented by a myriad of disciplines including but not limited to psychiatrists, neurosurgeons, biomedical engineers, neurologists, researchers and industry sponsors. Over the course of 4 days speakers from the international community presented their data and research on various brain stimulation topics ranging from basic TMS to vagus nerve stimulation, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), effects of ultrasound on brain tissue, deep TMS, invasive brain stimulation and many other topics. Some of the more interesting topics for me were the ones that dealt with the future potential uses or indications for TMS. These included obsessive compulsive disorder, treating addictions such as cocaine, opiates, nicotine and alcohol. There was also research presented that dealt with the potential benefits of TMS for chronic pain sufferers and stroke rehabilitation.

It was exciting to be at a table with researchers and practitioners from Russia and China and many other parts of the world. It was clear from this conference that the field of brain stimulation is here to stay and growing at a rapid rate.

In 1997, TMS was approved by Health Canada, then in 2002 it was approved for treatment resistant depression. In the US, TMS got FDA approval in 2008 with the Neurostar TMS device. In 2013, Brainsway was given FDA approval for it’s novel, patented H-Coil deep TMS device. Intense research ever since has cemented TMS as an effective and safe treatment for resistant major depressive disorder. Mark George, M.D. a psychiatrist at the University of South Carolina Medical school has been a pioneer in the research and application of TMS in the US. He was the co-chair for this international conference. See photo.

Today, TMS, along with other forms of brain stimulation are the focus of widespread research and use. TMS providers continue to expand. I’m told that there is a building in Tokyo, Japan that has roughly 60 TMS machines going daily on one floor of a building.

I’m excited to be a part of this expanding field of brain stimulation and it’s applications to people suffering from various brain disorders. It gives hope that there are safe, alternative treatments.

1. Barker, AT; Jalinous, R; Freeston, IL (1985). “Non-Invasive Magnetic Stimulation of Human Motor Cortex” The Lancet. 325 (8437): 1106-1107. doi: 10, 1016/S0140-6736(85)92413-4. PMID 2860322.


Posted by David Kent at 3/13/2017 1:49:00 PM
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