Center for Integrative Psychiatry

How TMS Affects Brain Function and Activity

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate specific areas of the brain. Doing so can improve symptoms of various mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). But how does TMS affect brain function and activity? This blog will explore the science behind TMS and its effects on the brain.


How TMS Works

TMS delivers short, powerful magnetic pulses to specific areas of the brain. These pulses generate electrical currents that stimulate brain nerve cells (neurons). The stimulation is localized to the targeted area, meaning it does not affect other brain regions. TMS can be delivered to different areas of the brain depending on the condition being treated. For example, it is commonly used to stimulate the left prefrontal cortex for depression.

TMS and Brain Activity

TMS can modulate brain activity in several ways:

  1. It can increase or decrease neuronal activity depending on the frequency of the magnetic pulses. High-frequency TMS (rTMS) is used to increase neuronal activity, while low-frequency TMS (lfTMS) is used to decrease activity.
  2. TMS can modulate the connectivity between different brain regions. By stimulating one area of the brain, TMS can strengthen or weaken the connections between that area and other regions.
  3. TMS can induce plasticity in the brain, changing the structure and function of neural networks over time.
TMS and Depression

One of the most well-established uses of TMS is for treating depression. TMS has been shown to increase neuronal activity in the left prefrontal cortex, which is known to be underactive in depressed individuals. By doing so, it can improve mood, reduce symptoms of depression, and enhance cognitive function. In addition, TMS can also modulate the connectivity between the prefrontal cortex and other brain regions involved in emotional processing, such as the amygdala. This may contribute to the anti-depressant effects of TMS.


TMS and Anxiety/OCD

TMS has also shown promise for the treatment of anxiety and OCD. In anxiety disorders, TMS can reduce amygdala activity and increase prefrontal cortex activity, which can help regulate emotional responses. In OCD, TMS can modulate activity in the cortico-striatal-thalamo-cortical circuit, which is thought to be dysregulated in the disorder. By doing so, it can reduce symptoms of obsessions and compulsions.



TMS is a powerful tool for modulating brain function and activity. Delivering targeted magnetic pulses to specific brain areas can increase or decrease neuronal activity, modulate connectivity, and induce plasticity. These effects can lead to therapeutic benefits for various mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and OCD. If you’re interested in learning more about how TMS can help you, contact the Center for Integrative Psychiatry today.

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