In 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the use of TMS for the treatment of depression in adults who have not received benefit from medication. FDA clearance is an important indicator that a treatment can help some patients – as demonstrated in carefully conducted clinical trials. Since then, most major insurances, including Medicare, now cover TMS therapy for the treatment of depression.
A growing body of research suggests that TMS can likewise help relieve the symptoms of schizophrenia, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, and improve movement rehabilitation after a stroke. However, it doesn’t yet have FDA clearance for these uses. The FDA is currently studying the results of the clinical trials, conducted on behalf of Neuronetics, that has found TMS to be an effective treatment for adolescents.
By comparison, research on TMS as a treatment for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) remains in its infancy. A search on PubMed, for example, turns up 42 journal articles on TMS and autism. But many are either theoretical or review articles or single session research studies. Only 13 of these papers represent clinical trials, and only one was a placebo-controlled trial. (Including a comparison to a placebo, or sham treatment, is important in a study to distinguish true benefits from the effect of expectations.) Some of these clinical studies have suggested that TMS can help relieve symptoms such as irritability and repetitive behaviors and improve autism-related disabilities in areas such as eye-hand coordination and social skills.
- Aleman, A. C. A., Enriquez-Geppert, S., Knegtering, H. & Lange, J. J. D.-D. Moderate effects of noninvasive brain stimulation of the frontal cortex for improving negative symptoms in schizophrenia: meta-analysis of controlled trials. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews(2018).doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2018.02.009 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29471017
- Kozel, F. A. et al. Repetitive TMS to augment cognitive processing therapy in combat veterans of recent conflicts with PTSD: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Affective Disorders 229,506–514 (2018).https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29351885
- Ruffini, C. et al. Augmentation Effect of Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Over the Orbitofrontal Cortex in Drug-Resistant Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Patients. The Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 11, 226–230 (2009).https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2781034/
- Pomeroy, V. M. et al. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and Muscle Contraction to Enhance Stroke Recovery: A Randomized Proof-of-Principle and Feasibility Investigation. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair 21, 509–517 (2007).http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1545968307300418
- Wall, C. A. et al. Neurocognitive Effects of Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in Adolescents with Major Depressive Disorder. Frontiers in Psychiatry 4, (2013).https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3859914/