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The Basics of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

The Basics of Transcranial Magnetic Stiumulation

October 5, 2022

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive, drug-free procedure that uses magnetic coils to stimulate and influence the brain’s activity. Utilizing a unique mechanism entirely different from the standard array of psychiatric medications, TMS represents an important alternative for individuals who have not responded to other treatment options.


Below are answers to some common questions about TMS.

How Does TMS Work?

Most currently available medical treatments for psychiatric conditions require patients to ingest a drug that eventually enters the brain and alters its functioning in ways that alleviate symptoms of mental illness. For example, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Lexapro, latch on to parts of neurons (tiny nerve cells in the brain) and prevent them from reabsorbing serotonin, a change which has been linked to improvements in anxiety, depression, and other conditions.


In contrast to these treatments, TMS is drug-free and noninvasive, meaning its active ingredient is not something that must be ingested or implanted. Instead, TMS impacts the brain from the outside. More specifically, it uses magnetic coils placed just above the scalp to send magnetic pulses into specific regions of the brain associated with mood regulation.

In turn, these pulses induce a series of changes in the brain that improve mood and alleviate symptoms of depression. As Latitia McDaniel, assistant TMS program director at Heading Health states:


By targeting these specific areas of the brain, TMS stimulates and strengthens these neural pathways. Like training a muscle, over time, the inactive signals begin firing and reconnecting properly again, thus restoring the emotional control center.

What is it Used to Treat?

TMS is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat the following conditions:


  • Major-depressive disorder (including treatment-resistant depression)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Migraines
  • Smoking Cessation


In addition to being FDA-approved, treatment-resistant depression (i.e., depression that has not adequately responded to one or more antidepressant drugs) is now covered by several insurance companies. At Heading, we work with most insurance plans, from United Healthcare to Medicare to Blue Cross Blue Shield. Click here for a full list of participating providers and to schedule a consultation to determine whether TMS is covered for you. 


Aside from the above-mentioned conditions, researchers continue to examine whether TMS might be useful for other mental illnesses not currently approved by the FDA, including:


  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Substance abuse
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder.


What is the Treatment Like?

TMS treatment for Major Depressive Disorder typically consists of three-minute or 20-minute sessions that occur five days a week over six weeks.


Undergoing TMS is a quick and straightforward process. At each appointment, patients sit in a relaxing chair as the practitioner places the magnetic coil in the correct location on their head. As the treatment begins, patients may feel a light tapping on their head that eventually dissipates. While rare, some individuals may feel some discomfort on their scalp, though this can be resolved by rotating or moving the magnetic coil or through other easy modifications.


After the session has ended, patients are free to drive home and continue their day as usual.


How Does Heading Health Do TMS Differently?

At Heading health, we focus on utilizing the best available tools to ensure our treatments are delivered precisely, reliably, and consistently.


One of the ways we accomplish this with TMS is with the Magstim StimGuide, the first navigational system specifically designed for the clinical market. After the target location has been identified, the StimGuide stores the location using four distinct parameters captured by a 3D snapshot of the treatment area. When administering TMS, this tool helps practitioners consistently identify the target area by emitting a green light when all four parameters are aligned.


In addition, our machines come outfitted with MagStim’s E-Z Cool Coil Coil, which has a built-in intelligence cooling system capable of at least a 37-minute protocol.  


Talk with your doctor to determine whether this treatment is right for you, or you can schedule an appointment with one of our team of psychiatrists or therapists to advise you on this or any other potential treatments for depression, including ketamine, Spravato, and TMS. Call us at 805-204-2502 or request an appointment here.

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Want to find out if Heading is right for you? 

Complete our consultation form and an intake specialist will get in touch.

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Nutritional Therapy for Mental Health

Nutritional Therapy for Mental Health

October 1, 2022

When trying to treat depression and anxiety, most people turn to psychotherapy, oral medications, or some other medical intervention.


While these treatments are effective and often a vital part of many individuals’ mental health toolkits, they aren’t the only ways to prevent and treat mental illness. In particular, research increasingly suggests that our diets can have a significant impact on our mental health. For example, a 2017 study found that around a third of subjects who switched to a Mediterranean-style diet no longer had symptoms of depression by the end of the trial, compared to eight percent of the participants who made no dietary changes. 


Nutritional therapists utilize these findings to help patients with a wide range of conditions by offering evidence-based, individualized advice on dietary and other lifestyle changes they can make to support their bodies and, in turn, their minds. 


Let’s look at some answers to common questions about nutritional therapy and its role in mental health. 

How Does Nutritional Therapy Impact Mental Health?

It’s common knowledge that what we eat can impact our physical health. For example, it’s well known that eating a diet high in sugar can increases one’s odds of developing diabetes and that high cholesterol, high sodium diets can increase the risk of developing heart disease.


But how can nutrition have an impact on mental health conditions? While the connections between diet and mental health are complex, there are, essentially, two ways in which what we eat can improve or harm our mental well-being.


First, the nutrients in our food get sent to the brain, altering its functioning in various ways that can impact mental health. For example, antioxidants, found in high levels in fruits and vegetables, can make their way into the brain and decrease oxidative stress, which has been implicated in several mental illnesses. Second, they can impact the health of our gut microbiomes. This collection of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and microbes performs a variety of roles, from producing some of the brain’s serotonin to regulating immune function, which can impact brain health and, ultimately, our psychological well-being.

What Conditions Can Nutritional Therapy Be Used to Treat?

From depression to schizophrenia, nutritional therapy can be used to treat a wide range of mental health conditions. This is partly because many mental disorders are caused or exacerbated by a set of common factors one can impact with their diet. As our resident expert and registered dietician, Sally Twellman notes:


Inflammation appears to be a common factor in mental illness, and dysfunction in the gut is often at the root of chronic inflammation. When you look at the research, regardless of the manifestation of mental illness, symptoms typically improve by decreasing inflammation and replenishing the micronutrients that one needs to thrive. And this is really across the board.

How Does Heading Health do Nutritional Therapy Differently?

Heading Health’s approach to nutritional therapy is unique in several important ways.


First, our nutritional therapy can be combined with in-house teletherapy or telepsychiatry. This is critical because nutritional therapy is often best used to amplify the effects of other treatments, like psychotherapy or medications, rather than as a stand-alone solution. Second, we utilize a holistic, evidence-based approach, which encompasses more than the standard dietary changes, like those involving proteins, calories, and carbs. As Sally notes when discussing her approach to nutritional therapy:


Often when we discuss nutrition modification, we only focus on proteins, calories, fat, and carbohydrates. That’s important. But then we often forget that the real medicine in our food comes from vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. If we don’t have those basic building blocks and we don’t have those correct signaling molecules, it’s difficult for our brains to function optimally.


Importantly, we don’t stop at dietary changes. We also include lifestyle modifications (e.g., exercise, meditation, journaling, breathwork, etc.), which are known to positively affect mental health and can enhance the effects of dietary alterations.


Overall, we look at the whole person and consider how they can make small but meaningful adjustments that complement other treatments they are receiving to optimize their mental health.


Talk with your doctor to determine whether nutritional therapy is right for you, or you can schedule an appointment with one of our team of psychiatrists or therapists to advise you on this or any other potential treatments for depression, including ketamine, Spravato, and TMS. Call us at 805-204-2502 or request an appointment here.

Take the first step

Want to find out if Heading is right for you? 

Complete our consultation form and an intake specialist will get in touch.

Schedule your consultation