rTMS treatment is a widely used technique for the treatment of a range of mental health conditions. 

It has been particularly well researched for the treatment of depression and the US FDA approved the treatment in 2008.  Since then it has also been widely adopted in other European countries with the UK approval by NICE coming in late 2015.

MagVita rTMS System

TMS Depression TreatmentSmart TMS uses the MagVita System, which has a European Clinical License

Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, rTMS – also known as TMS – uses fast magnetic pulses to induce electrical currents within a target area of the brain.  This switches nerves on or off, allowing the activation or suppression of brain centres associated with a number of medical and psychiatric disorders.  TMS was first discovered at Southampton University, UK,  in 1985.  Since then, it has been widely used as a research technique and has enetered into the clinical environment in 2008 with the US FDA approval.

Unlike Electroconvulsive treatment (ECT), it does not require anesthesia or lead to memory impairment.

How Does rTMS Work?

The pulsing magnetic field causes nerves to fire more (stimulation) or less (inhibition) which in turn causes them to form more (or fewer) connections.

The nerves on the surface of the brain connect down through the brain to areas that have been shown to be important in causing the mental health condition being treated.  The treatment leads to increases in grey matter in the affected areas, increased (or reduced) activity and hence leads to alleviation of symptoms and long-term improvements for patients.

It is also believed that TMS treatment leads to increases in Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) which is important in brain health.

TMS treatment for depression targets the left prefrontal cortex that regulates mood.  This area is known to be less active in patients with depression. Stimulation of this area triggers neuroplasticity and the release of BDNF, leading to increased activity in the deep brain (that can also be seen to be less active) leading to the long-term improvements that are experienced by most patients.

TMS brain activity

Will it work for me?

  • TMS has been shown to be more effective than placebo.
  • It works in about 70% of patients
  • TMS can work for patients for whom antidepressants are not effective or tolerated
  • TMS can work for patients who have tried ECT without success
  • Results are stable afterwards for at least 3 months or more and may improve slightly.

Unfortunately, it is not possible currently to determine which patients will respond and those that don’t.  However, Smart TMS has developed proprietary protocols that have been shown to work on patients for whom the normal FDA treatment protocol did not work.


Dr Leigh A Neal explains what TMS is and who it’s suitable for

rTMS at Smart TMS, Ireland

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation therapy treatment for depression is available at Smart TMS Ireland, based at our clinic in Dublin.