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Depression doesn’t require meds

TMS clinics in Lakewood and Lacey help depression sufferers

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(Photo: Dr. Jonathan Downar works with a local patient).

Depression isn't your fault. It is a medical condition -- an inhibition of sorts in your brain. And like any physical problem, there are medical solutions. But that doesn't mean you have to take a regimen of pharmaceuticals, some which cause side-effects.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS, is an effective alternative, and lucky for us in the South Sound, an international expert in the procedure is connected right here in Lakewood and Lacey.

Dr. Jonathan Downar, co-director of the MRI-Guided rTMS Clinic at University Health Network, and a neuroscientist at the Toronto Western Research Institute, is a partner in NeuroStim TMS Centers. NeuroStim TMS, covered by Tricare, operates clinics around the Puget Sound area with experts in TMS. 

"TMS is non-invasive," Downar said recently. "It is an FDA-approved process for the treatment of depressive disorders."

The FDA approved TMS in 2008 and it is recommended by the American Psychiatric Association. While it took time for TMS to gain traction nationally since insurance companies did not cover it until a few years ago, that has now changed. "TMS is now the fastest growing treatment technique in all of mental health with growth rates of 20 to 30 percent per year," Downar said. During treatment, magnetic pulses are delivered through a magnetic coil to stimulate nerve cells in specific regions of the brain controlling mood. "Repetitive stimulation of this area of the brain can have antidepressant effects on patients," Downar said. In effect, it improves the connections that allow a person to regain healthy use of that part of the brain.

Downar said the part of the brain that is being stimulated is on the left side, specifically the dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex, or in short, Left-DLPFC. "This area is the focal point connecting the different brain areas that are involved in the depression," he added.

The TMS treatment chairs are like what you'd find in the dentist's office, padded and comfortable, putting you in the perfect ergonomic position to relax. Treatment, when demonstrated on the arm, feels like a quick tap, not painful. When the multiple, repeated pulses of a treatment session are administered to the brain, some patients report scalp discomfort or a slight headache, which generally respond well to aspirin and usually subside after the first week of treatment. There are no drug-related or major side effects with TMS. "We consistently see 95 to 97 percent of patients who start TMS finish the treatments, with the majority achieving a clinically significant improvement or complete remission," Downar said.

It is not shock therapy. In fact, most patients feel just a light tickling sensation.

Downar has been at the forefront of TMS. A renowned neuroscientist and psychiatrist, Downar has been instrumental in dozens of clinical trials since 2010 and his work has been published in numerous high-impact international medical journals. His work has recently helped shorten the time patients spend in the chair, and one day, he hopes to see patients able to do some treatments in their own homes. 

If you would like more questions answered, NeuroStim offers a free consultation, plus military family members do not need a Tricare referral -- the office handles all of the paperwork. You can contact NeuroStim TMS in Lakewood or Lacey at 253.200.5763, or 360.208.2765, or visit them online at NeuroStimTMS.com.

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