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History of TMS

Feb 23, 2021

In 1791, professor Luigi Galvani published his Commentary on the Effects of Electricity on Muscular Motion. Before this book, many leading thinkers believed that electricity could have medical applications.

Galvani demonstrated that electric currents are an important part of the nervous system. His studies laid the groundwork for innovative treatments like Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS).

The history of TMS took off in the 1980s. Anthony Barker and his colleagues introduced the first TMS device in 1985. Since then, TMS has become a leading option for mental-health treatment.

This article will take you through the exciting history of TMS treatment. Keep reading to find out more!

Setting the Stage for TMS

In 1881, scientist Micael Faraday made an important discovery. He learned that you can create a magnetic field by running electricity through a metal coil.

Future experiments involved placing these coils near a person’s head. During these primitive experiments, the subjects reported feeling dizzy or woozy.

Scientists later realized that human nerve cells conduct electricity. This realization inspired some scientists to study the use of electricity in medicine.

Throughout the 1800s, doctors tried different ways of using electricity in their work. New York’s Dr. James Bryan created electrical belts and harnesses. He advertised these devices as treatments for many diseases.

In 1912, an ‘electric bath’ was included on the Titanic. This device sent electrical currents across the body. Doctors believed that these baths could heal diseases and strengthen weak muscles.

Ronald Melzack and Patrick Wall developed their ‘gate control theory’ in the 1960s. This theory showed how the spinal cord and brain talk to other nerve cells in the body.

There are ‘nerve gates’ in the spinal cord that control nerve signals. Scientists started to wonder whether they could control those signals.

If they could control nerve signals, then they could help balance these messages for struggling patients. Scientists also thought they could use these ideas to manage pain during chronic conditions.

These early experiments set the stage for using TMS as a depression treatment.

When Was TMS Developed?

In 1985, Dr. Anthony Barker and his team introduced the first TMS device. They first used a simple magnetic coil similar to the one Faraday developed. They tested this treatment on themselves first.

Their work became internationally popular in no time. When Barker and his team placed the coil near a certain brain region, they could make certain muscles contract.

This was the first case where scientists saw a physical tissue react to brain stimulation. Barker’s work transformed modern ideas about the relationship between the brain and the body.

As other research groups studied TMS, the technology evolved. At first, TMS devices sent out a single pulse at a time. More advanced models could send repeating pulses in less time.

This form of TMS is known as repetitive TMS (rTMS). Studies have shown that repeated pulses are more effective for treatment.

The Canadian government approved TMS in 1997. The United States followed suit in 2008. Around the world, scientists and doctors have come together to improve and promote this exciting technology.

As neuroscience continues to progress, the number of TMS applications grows. Let’s take a look at how doctors have used this technology during the history of TMS.

Treatments Across the History of TMS

In the early days of electricity, doctors mainly used currents to contract different muscles. Some even thought they could use these currents to bring the dead back to life!

Medicine has certainly come a long way since then. Today, doctors use TMS to treat a wide range of conditions. Here are a few examples:

Major Depressive Disorder

You might be most familiar with TMS as a treatment for depression. Many studies have investigated how effective this treatment is.

Researchers found that it’s important to perform TMS therapy for at least several weeks. Patients who receive a full course of TMS treatment have reported improvement in their depression symptoms.

Many people have struggled with the side effects caused by antidepressant medication. TMS therapy is a great alternative in such cases. Individuals with treatment-resistant depression have also found relief through TMS.


Epilepsy is the most common long-term neurological disorder. People who had epilepsy centuries ago had virtually zero treatment options.

Patients with epilepsy experience frequent seizures. These seizures are caused by the sudden and rapid release of nerve cells. TMS therapy works by making nerve cells less excitable.

Many individuals with epilepsy have found relief through TMS. This therapy can reduce the number and frequency of epileptic seizures.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

People who go through traumatic events may be at risk of developing PTSD. This disorder can cause extreme anxiety, flashbacks, and repeating nightmares.

In the late 1990s, doctors first tried using TMS to treat PTSD. They found that TMS helped their patients handle depressive symptoms.

Later research showed that TMS can reduce anxiety and avoidance in people with PTSD. For anyone struggling with this challenging condition, TMS may offer some much-needed relief.

TMS Therapy Today

The history of TMS teaches us a lot about medical progress. What began as an interesting experiment has become an internationally renowned treatment option.

Here at Brain Therapy TMS, we believe that it’s important to do your homework. Our staff and clinicians analyze the past and present of TMS. This way, we ensure that no stone is left unturned on your path to healing.

If you’re looking for a community of caring, capable professionals, Brain Therapy TMS is here to help! Get in touch to schedule a consultation today.

Considering TMS Treatment? Schedule a Consultation!

Tired of the results you’re getting from your standard treatment? Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation may be able to increase your chances of long-term remission, reducing your symptoms and allowing you to live a more joyful life.




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