Magnets: how do they work?

I’m working on my mental health with a treatment that sound pretty science fiction: HF-rTMS, which stands for high -frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation. I spend about twenty minutes sitting in a chair every day with a figure-eight-shaped magnetic coil attached to my head. A series of electric pulses travel from a generator through the coil to my skull in quick succession, then pauses, then repeats. The therapy targets the left prefrontal cortex, which shows reduced resting activity in depressed people. It also contains a lot of motor neurons.

The sound is much like there’s a metal woodpecker inside my skull. The feeling is less painful, but it’s not something I’d do for fun. Often my eyes twitch during the treatment and afterwards I feel extra twitchy and shaky, because my already overstimulated (due to myoclonus-dystonia) motor neurons have also been getting more current.


Focal field for TMS positioning
Why magnets? Electromagnets are currently the least painful way to send current to brains.
The side effect is that sometimes I have a headache afterwards, which is common. I’ll take headaches for the chance to make a long-term improvement in my mental health. The neuropsychiatrist told me that about two thirds of patients respond. So far, no positive change in mental health, but I’m only two weeks in, and they see most responses begin in week three or four. As to why exactly it works…well, scientists are still working on that one. Best theory seems to be that evening out an electrical balance alleviates some of what can cause major depressive disorder.

It’s an every-weekday for six weeks treatment, after which there are three more weeks of tapered treatment. If I start responding on week six, I get another few weeks of it. It’s a hassle to get to and from the center- I have to leave work early. I get to spend the time in the chair reading, at least. So far I’ve read N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Kingdoms, Jeffe Kennedy’s The Mark of the Tala and Lonen’s War, and Joan Vinge’s The Snow Queen. I’ve been too tired to work on my novel, but at least I’ve been filling the creative well with a lot of books.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.