We had the pleasure of visiting Dr. Frank MacMaster on his own turf this week: in his research lab at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Frank leads the University of Calgary’s research into non-invasive neurostimulation applications for mental health in children and young adults. He uses a Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) device to target the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex so as to influence brain behavior. We know that’s a mouthful, so Frank offered to describe one role neurostimulation plays in helping depression sufferers.

Frank introduced and let us test drive some of the TMS equipment that he uses in his work, and that the Foundation hopes to see in Primary Care centres in Edmonton in the near future. When the machine is activated near your arm, the sensation is similar to a pencil rapping on your skin, accompanied by mild finger twitches and a tickling sensation.

Three exciting things that we took away from our visit were:

  1. The evidence is “rock-solid,” says Frank, that TMS is an effective treatment option for many of the patients who qualify, in addition to being without any major side effects.
  2. The effects of TMS are quick to emerge. A patient will almost certainly know by week 2 of treatment whether or not TMS will work for them (compared to many months for pharmaceuticals).
  3. TMS has incredible potential to someday not only treat depression, but also other neurological disorders. Investment in TMS devices could lead to massive unforeseen benefits.