Brain Stimulation Therapy and Mental Health

Learn more about brain stimulation therapy, the potential benefits, and if this treatment is right for you.

Table of Contents

What is Brain Stimulation Therapy?

Brain stimulation therapy, unlike traditional talk therapy, is an alternative therapeutic approach to healing and wellness. Brain stimulation therapy uses electrodes that are implanted in the brain or applied to the scalp to send electrical impulses that regulate brain activity. It is most often used to treat behavioral, mental health, or neurological issues like Parkinson’s disease and dementia when other forms of treatment have not been effective.1

Brain Stimulation Therapy

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What Does Brain Stimulation Therapy Do?

During treatment sessions, the electrical impulses sent through the brain during stimulation treatment are used to try to stop poor behavioral patterns or neurological conditions caused by brain activity issues. Over time, inhibiting these negative behaviors can cause both the mind and body to adapt to this change, which may prevent any further issues from continuing or progressing. 

Brain stimulation therapy is a treatment best recommended by a professional, and although safe, should not be attempted at home.

What Types of Brain Stimulation Therapy Are There?

Four types of brain stimulation treatment can be used to treat different conditions. These types are detailed below.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

ECT is typically for treating mental illnesses such as depression or bipolar disorder. During ECT, patients are put under anesthesia, and small electrical currents are sent through the brain to create a controlled seizure. Doing this has been shown to change brain chemistry in a way that can improve mental health symptoms. Studies have shown that 70-90% of individuals report improvements in depression symptoms after receiving ECT.2

This treatment method is not used often due to worries about how seizures could affect patients. However, since patients are asleep during this treatment, they only experience mild, if any, side effects from treatment.

Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS)

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation involves applying electromagnetic coils to a patient’s scalp. The doctor will then send short, painless magnetic pulses through areas of the brain that affect mood disorders. This type of treatment is most effective for depression, OCD, PTSD, pain, and substance use disorders.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)

The vagus nerve sends signals to the brain and other areas of the body to control heart rate, mood, and immune functions. During VNS treatment, a small pulse generator is placed on the upper left side of the chest to stimulate the vagus nerve and send signals to the brainstem. 

This influences how the brain cells function and can have many benefits on mood and feelings of well-being. Early studies on this treatment method show that it can have positive effects when treating major depressive disorder.

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)

DBS treatment involves placing tiny electrodes or wires in regions of the brain that affect neurological conditions. Since this is a more invasive form of brain stimulation treatment, it is typically only used for those with more severe conditions. 

Studies on DBS have found that it can benefit Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, and epilepsy. Other early studies have also shown that it can benefit mental health conditions like severe depression, bipolar disorder, or OCD.

What Does Brain Stimulation Therapy Treat?

Research has shown that brain stimulation therapy can have a positive impact on several types of conditions when they have been resistant to other treatment options. Conditions brain stimulation can treat include:

The type of stimulation therapy used will depend on the specific condition a patient is struggling with and the severity of their symptoms.

Brain Stimulation Therapy and Mental Health

Brain stimulation therapy can improve conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. Since stimulating brain cells significantly impacts mood, it’s easy to see why stimulation treatment would be effective for symptoms associated with these conditions.

Is Brain Stimulation Therapy Painful?

Non-invasive brain stimulation therapies like rTMS, ECT, and VNS are typically not painful, and most patients will experience minor side effects, if any.3

DBS treatment is more invasive, so it can have more side effects and minor pain after the surgical procedure. However, most patients report that the procedure isn’t very painful and will experience only minor side effects from treatment.4

Is Brain Stimulation Therapy Still Used?

Brain stimulation is still used as a treatment method, as it has proven to be safe and effective. Many resources are available that can help you find the right treatment options for your needs. 

As continuous studies are conducted on the effectiveness of stimulation treatment, it is likely to become a more widely recognized and used treatment method in the future.

Who Is Eligible for Brain Stimulation Therapy?

Typically, those who are most eligible for brain stimulation therapy are those with mental health, behavioral, or neurological conditions that haven’t been treated successfully through other treatment options. Consulting with a medical professional or a treatment center is a good place to start if you would like to know if stimulation treatment is right for you.

Is Brain Stimulation Used for Depression?

Brain stimulation can be used for depression. While studies are limited on its effectiveness, the ones that have been conducted are very promising. Many patients who have treatment-resistant depression report improvements after brain stimulation.

How Effective is Brain Stimulation for Depression?

ECT brain stimulation is 70-90% effective for depression. Studies have shown that 30-64% of patients who receive rTMS treatment and 50-70% of patients who receive VNS treatment experience improvements in depression symptoms, so choosing any of these methods for treating depression can be effective.

What Are the Benefits of Brain Stimulation?

There are many benefits to brain stimulation treatment, which are detailed below.

Symptom Reduction

Stimulation of brain cells results in decreased symptoms for patients who haven’t had success with medications, therapies, or other treatment options. Brain stimulation may be a great option to tackle difficult symptoms.

Little to No Damage

Most forms of brain stimulation are non-invasive treatment methods. Even DBS, which involves a surgical procedure, results in little to no damage or side effects. While having electrical impulses sent through the brain can sound scary, this is a very safe treatment method, and you won’t have anything to worry about when receiving treatment from trained professionals.

Decreased Medication Needs

If you’re struggling with the side effects of medication, opting for brain stimulation may be a better option. After stimulation treatment, you may be able to decrease the dosage of medication or come off of it entirely.

Individualized Treatment

Doctors who offer brain stimulation will help you create a treatment plan that is specific to your needs. Individualized treatment will help manage and reduce symptoms by treating the root cause and problems in the brain’s functioning.

Is Brain Stimulation Therapy Safe?

Like any treatment method, some minor risks or side effects could occur from brain stimulation therapy. However, it is a very safe treatment method with minimal or no side effects for most people.

Brain Stimulation Therapy

What Are the Risks of Brain Stimulation?

Some rare risks that can occur with brain stimulation treatment are:5
  • 1% risk of hemorrhage or stroke
  • Device malfunction
  • Feeling more emotional after treatment
  • Headaches
  • Infection
  • Lack of improvements for certain conditions or symptoms
  • Loss of balance
  • Pulling or strained feeling in muscles
  • Speech or vision problems
  • Temporary tingling in the face or limbs

These side effects are rare, and most people won’t experience issues with this treatment method, so it is still a very low-risk option.

Get Help with Brain Stimulation Therapy at Profound Treatment

If you’re looking for brain stimulation therapy or want to learn more about if it’s the right option for your needs, Profound Treatment can help. 

Profound Treatment is a rehab center in Los Angeles. All treatment programs used at Profound Treatment are evidence-based and tailored to your specific needs. With our friendly and knowledgeable treatment professionals helping you every step of the way, you can be assured that you will get the help needed to recover. Contact us today for more information about how we can help you achieve the long-term, sustainable wellness you deserve.

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