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Healing Magnets: Not Just for New-Age Hippies Anymore

By imrdkl in Science
Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 06:29:32 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a relatively new medical procedure which induces electrical current in the brain using powerful electromagnets placed near the scalp. TMS has been clinically shown to aid in the relief of drug-resistant depression - without memory loss or other side-effects associated with ECT (Electro-Convulsive Therapy). In locations where it is available, researchers are now recommending TMS before a course of ECT is pursued.

TMS is already being routinely administered to patients in many countries throughout the world, with the notable exception of the US, where the FDA has yet to approve it for ordinary use. Interestingly, TMS has also been noted to improve working memory, speed up problem solving, and sharpen attention. Alternatively, it can induce blindness, alter speech-patterns, and even disrupt memory, and all this without direct physical contact with the patient. TMS might even be used as a truth-extractor, someday.

TMS was originally developed for mapping and measuring brain functionality. It is based on the principle which states that a varying magnetic field will cause an electrical field within any volume where it passes. When the specifically-targeted TMS magnetic field passes through the brain, it affects cortical neurons in a particular area. The early studies, beginning around 1985, determined that the effect was not limited to the cortex, but "spreads" to the related subcortical structures. This finding gave researchers a basis for treating neural inactivity associated with some neuropsychiatric illnesses.

During the past decade, researchers have explored and documented hundreds of beneficial uses for TMS, including as a treatment for schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, Parkinson's disease, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, among others. Late last year, TMS has been shown to reduce the devastating effects of tinnitus. Next month, (Feb 2003) a test begins which will use TMS to stimulate the brain of stroke-patients, in an effort to restore lost or damaged speaking ability.

The typical apparatus for applying TMS or rTMS (repetitive TMS) involves a capacitor which can deliver ~5000 amps of charge across a special magnetic coil, ideally within 1 millisecond or less. The faster the charge is delivered, the better, since the peak of the induced charge is most important, especially when attempting to affect deeper brain structures. With rTMS, frequencies typically are about 10hz, but can go up to 60hz.

The magnetic coils used for TMS/rTMS are of two primary types, circular and double-circular. The double-circular coil focuses its energy better than a circular coil, with the peak concentration at the conjoined center of the circles, and can deliver a slightly higher Tesla value for the same charge. Small coils deliver a higher intensity magnetic flux than larger coils, but the intensity falls off quicker with distance than with larger coils. Therefore, small coils are typically used to treat superficial nerves, while larger coils are used to treat deeper structures.

Early on in the research, grand mal seizures were induced by rTMS in a small number of the test subjects, but the introduction of safety guidelines which limit the duration of treatment to five seconds or less have largely eliminated the undesirable seizures. It has also been established that no memory loss occurs as a result of the stimulation, even if seizures are intentionally induced. About three percent of the test subjects do continue to report a nonspecific feeling of discomfort while the treatment is being applied, however. This is usually resolved after a few treatment sessions, according to the available literature.

TMS has many potential uses. Outside of the US, understanding these uses is limited at this point mostly by funding, research, and time. The application devices are approved for therapeutic and clinical use in most countries throughout the world, including Canada. Inside of the US, the FDA still requires local review boards, limiting usage to clinical trials and non-cortical stimulation at this time. However, the FDA policy regarding TMS is being updated regularly (pdf), and it's hoped that approval for more general use may be coming by end of this year. In any case, TMS certainly isn't a billable procedure just yet. The problem may be that researchers simply don't yet understand how TMS works, even if the beneficial effects are quite apparent. Clinical investigations in the US are currently underway, however. A planned study at the National Institute of Health is recruiting new patients who will receive TMS as treatment for depression, while the National Library of Medicine is seeking patients who have Parkinson's disease.

Utilizing the various search engines will reveal many references to recent and ongoing TMS research. While most of the documented (published) research is currently related to the beneficial effects of using TMS as treatment for specific medical problems, one can also find cautious speculation regarding the more generalized benefits of TMS - such as attention enhancement and memory improvement. Naturally, there's some disagreement over the effectiveness of rTMS, but self-improvement devices based on the technology are already available. It might not be as easy as Alex Chiu would have us believe, but the fact is that simple magnetism can indeed help people feel better.

Other References:

  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: An Examination
  • Guide to Magnetic Stimulation
  • McMan's Depression and Bipolar Web
  • The Safety of TMS
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    Healing Magnets
    o Hippie 30%
    o Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick 41%
    o Who cares, I'm not depressed 10%

    Votes: 55
    Results | Other Polls

    Related Links
    o Transcrani al Magnetic Stimulation
    o induces
    o ECT
    o before a course of ECT is pursued
    o truth-extr actor
    o mapping and measuring
    o principle
    o post-traum atic stress disorder
    o Parkinson' s disease
    o obsessive- compulsive disorder
    o reduce the devastating effects of tinnitus
    o circular
    o double-cir cular
    o Tesla value
    o updated regularly
    o billable procedure
    o don't yet understand
    o recruiting new patients
    o seeking patients
    o some disagreement
    o self-impro vement devices
    o Alex Chiu
    o Transcrani al Magnetic Stimulation: An Examination
    o Guide to Magnetic Stimulation
    o McMan's Depression and Bipolar Web
    o The Safety of TMS
    o Also by imrdkl

    Display: Sort:
    Healing Magnets: Not Just for New-Age Hippies Anymore | 39 comments (27 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
    Just what we need (3.66 / 3) (#2)
    by BadDoggie on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 07:30:44 AM EST

    Now there's going to be thousands more healing magnetic rings, bands, bracelets, necklaces, mattress pads and other crap for sale.
    "Medically proven to work!"
    Oh, to be a huxter!



    "The line between genius and stupidity is very fine indeed, but you're so far away from the line that it doesn't matter." --

    Re: Just what we need (4.00 / 1) (#18)
    by ZorbaTHut on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 08:04:36 PM EST

    To say nothing of immortality rings.

    He's already nuts *without* any evidence on his side, I can only wonder what he'll be like *with* evidence.

    [ Parent ]

    Hey, read the article! (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by Spork on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 01:48:23 AM EST

    I'm sorry, but healing magnetic bands are 100% off topic. If you follow the links, the primary application for this procedure is as an alternative to elecroconvlusive therapy. Basically, the device magnetically scrambles your brain, and afterwards, you're in a better mood for a while. Or that's what the preliminary tests indicate, anyway. Stupid wristband magnets are absolutely ineffectual, but this certainly isn't. I bet you they have to pump you with muscle relaxants or you would go into an epileptic siezure from all that induced electric current in your brain. So it's a pretty dramatic procedure, and the plan would be to use it only after even the hard-core antidepressant drugs stop working. It's stupid of the author to link this magnetic treatment with hippie hoaxes, simply because both involve a magnetic field. Lots of things that are not alike nonetheless have magnets inside.

    [ Parent ]
    Hrm (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Anonymous 7324 on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 08:35:07 AM EST

    With such a large change in B-field, you're setting up a very large momentary E-field and causing all the anions and cations in solution to want to go somewhere, one way or the other.

    Given the duration and the high power, this sounds suspiciously similar in final result to something like the electrophoresis of E. Coli to create competent cells for transformation. Except that after you zap E. Coli, you normally let them heal up with some SOC or at least LB.

    Any biologists want to comment?

    Not likely (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by gmol on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 03:56:20 PM EST

    "electroporation" is a result of membrane destabilization via strong electric current and heat.

    I'd think it'd be a safe bet that the result of the equivalent action on your brain would have much more obvious effects than what has been seen; given that you kill a lot of bacteria when you electroporate.

    [ Parent ]

    +FP, but... (3.33 / 3) (#15)
    by k31 on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 06:34:20 PM EST

    This treatment is never something I would recommend, and would never consent to undergoing it myself.

    From my experience with physcology and medical professionals, self-diagnosis is better (for independant thinkers such as myself) and outside interpetations of actions and philsophies which may, at first glance (and all subsequent glances) appear to be insane will lead to further deterioation.

    Similarly, I wouldn't accept medication for ADD, Dyslexia, or any other neuro-illness.

    Of course, I can say that because I have been given a clean bill of health by a clinical physcologist (long story, long ago) and am of the presective that smart people are usually misinterpeted until well after the critical time during which they need to transmute their intellect into useful contributions to the greater scheme of life (or evil... whatever).

    Your dollar is you only Word, the wrath of it your only fear. He who has an EAR to hear....

    Yeah right (4.50 / 2) (#27)
    by greenrd on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 08:45:33 AM EST

    From my experience with physcology and medical professionals, self-diagnosis is better (for independant thinkers such as myself)

    The only thing worse than a doctor who thinks he knows everything, is a patient who thinks he knows everything. Self-diagnosis can be dangerous.

    Of course, I can say that because I have been given a clean bill of health by a clinical physcologist (long story, long ago)

    Well, I'm not a "clinical physcologist". But these statements from your website indicate to me that your mind is not functioning correctly:

    For a long time I dedicated myself to finding the whole Truth. This has been a longer and more difficult struggle than I expected, but it has been more rewarding than if I had instead focused on getting either money or sex (however, now that I have Truth, there's no reason to withold any desire from my heart).

    Right. You have "Truth". Excuse me while I disbelieve you. That kind of belief is usually symptomatic of falling into the religion trap. Am I right?

    Oh wait...

    , however, know that no human on this earth is greater than me[6]; certainly, none is closer to the original creative force of the seven universes than I (we may be equals, or you may be lesser).

    Ah, the self idolatry strain of religion. Particular virulent. I suggest you seek treatment immediately.

    [7] This was inspired by comments made by my enemy (rival squared). It also jives with my personal philosophy of indirect or subtle influence, and acts to remind me that gravity is an pulling force transmitted as an electromagnetic wave at a fundamental speed of which the speed of light is a fraction.

    No, it isn't. Gravity is not transmitted as an electromagnetic wave, and it "travels" at the same speed as light.

    "Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
    [ Parent ]

    You... (none / 0) (#36)
    by k31 on Thu Jan 23, 2003 at 10:50:08 PM EST

    perceive nothing.

    The anime version is much better than the live action, but if you must, "Fist of the North Star":


    Gravity [...] "travels" at the same speed as light.

    So, this is your Truth? Or your Belief?

    Your dollar is you only Word, the wrath of it your only fear. He who has an EAR to hear....
    [ Parent ]

    physcology? (3.00 / 1) (#29)
    by ryochiji on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 01:53:44 PM EST

    Do you mean "physiology" or "psychology"?

    IlohaMail: Webmail that works.
    [ Parent ]
    both, I think (none / 0) (#37)
    by k31 on Sat Jan 25, 2003 at 12:35:57 PM EST

    You'd have to quote the exact portion, but I think I mean both, at different points in the sentence.

    Your dollar is you only Word, the wrath of it your only fear. He who has an EAR to hear....
    [ Parent ]
    nutjob (5.00 / 2) (#30)
    by StackTrayce on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 03:52:23 PM EST

    From k31's website:
    know that no human on this earth is greater than me
    I find it really odd that the greatest human on this earth would host his website at geocities...
    You certainly appear to have a formidable intellect, despite your atrocious spelling/butchering of long words. I wouldn't necessarily say you are insane, just a bit off. But I certainly wouldn't want to force any treatment you don't want on you as long as you are not harming anyone.
    From your ramblings on your "trans-religeous beliefs":
    This reminded me of the quassi-religion that I was going to develop about half a decade ago, but stopped because people already thought I was the next David Koresh (some cult leader person who apparently lead a suicide cult or whatever).

    Yeah, I remember that because I haven't been isolating myself from world events...
    I'm not interested in leading a cult; that would be an inferior accomplishment to acheiving world peace through practical omniprosperity ior creating the best videogames in the world.
    Well, I can't argue with that!

    [ Parent ]
    Some more equal than others? (none / 0) (#35)
    by k31 on Thu Jan 23, 2003 at 10:20:17 PM EST

    I said:

    know that no human on this earth is greater than me

    You said:

    I find it really odd that the greatest human on this earth would host his website at geocities...

    I expound, now:

    I believe all humans are intrinsically equal. Because of this, there can be no one greater than me. No one less than me, either.

    Obviously, they can be those with less opportunity, less intellect, or more prepositioned towards genocide, but I still figure I'm "equal" in a sense.

    "All electrons are created equal,
    but some power light bulbs,
    some power computers."

    Something like that. Personally, I could do without either the light or the computer; but life is easier for me because they're both working to benefit some extra-electron entity (me) which they don't even know (at least, I don't think they know me).

    In the same way, I guess, humans can help humanity, in one way or another, and in different ways... and also help the extra-universe, without even knowing it.

    Perhaps we even help God, if she/he/it/they exist, if only by making them laugh.

    I wouldn't necessarily say you are insane, just a bit off. But I certainly wouldn't want to force any treatment you don't want on you as long as you are not harming anyone.

    Thanks! The world's a better place because of you. If I had a cult, I'd be trying to recruit you for it.

    Actually, I remind myself of the rich guy from Rat Race (http://us.imdb.com/Title?0250687)

    "Of course I can do [that], I'm eccentric! <makes a strange face and sound>"

    Your dollar is you only Word, the wrath of it your only fear. He who has an EAR to hear....
    [ Parent ]

    This has nothing to do with (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by bjlhct on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 06:40:33 PM EST

    permanant magnets for healing. What the hell.

    And these being used as "truth extractors" is complete BS. Nobody knows how the brain stores memory, and nobody can tell what someone's thinking about from MRI or SQUID - general areas at best.


    [kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism

    If these magnets don't heal (none / 0) (#17)
    by imrdkl on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 07:13:59 PM EST

    then what exactly are they doing? I was chastised for not making the new-age vs.science thing clear, but when one reads the links I've given, one sees that every single one points to valid research and peer-reviewed conclusions, or direct quotes from the leading scientists in the field - which happens to be the truth-extractor reference.

    [ Parent ]
    You said it yourself (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by dennis on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 09:03:24 PM EST

    that a varying magnetic field will cause an electrical field within any volume where it passes.

    ...a varying field, not a constant one like the permanent magnets bjlhct referred to. Plus it's aimed at specific structures in the brain, it's not just a magnet sitting on the skin somewhere.

    Not that you ever mentioned permanent magnets anyway. Very interesting article, I'd never heard of TMS before.

    [ Parent ]

    What you did wrong is... (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by Spork on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 01:57:45 AM EST

    Why the hell did you then talk about hippies in your title? You are just asking to be misunderstood. And I wrote pretty clear editorial comments before you pulled and resubmitted the story, so you deserve to get some shit for not fixing it. The truth is that new age science is about as far from this topic as is farting. Your odd insistance on making some sort of a connection is puzzling and very counterproductive if you want people to think about this seriously.

    [ Parent ]
    Sigh, I guess so (none / 0) (#26)
    by imrdkl on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 05:31:25 AM EST

    The title should be captivating, but not confusing. I guess I could have made a dry, scientific-sounding title. Maybe next time.

    [ Parent ]
    I thought you got the title just right (3.00 / 2) (#33)
    by mreardon on Thu Jan 23, 2003 at 09:44:45 AM EST

    It made me smile and then read the article. I think micro electric fields will play a huge part in the future of medicine. Look for instance at the work of Bob Beck and Hulda Clarke.

    [ Parent ]
    Truth extraction (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by dennis on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 09:15:43 PM EST

    By reading that "truth extractor" link, I discovered that no one is claiming any sort of direct extraction of memories or thoughts. What they are saying is that the device can be aimed at specific structures in the brain and stop them from working. So, after clearly labeling it a "flight of fancy," they say: "What if...TMS could block the brain activity associated with lying, and witnesses would get zapped before taking the stand?"

    [ Parent ]
    This is nuts. (4.50 / 4) (#21)
    by nstenz on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 09:18:13 PM EST

    They're inducing an eletrical current in the brain. The brain already has enough electrical current of its own, and it knows where to put it. God only knows how many neurons this "magnet" is firing off that shouldn't be. They mention Grand Mal seizures as a side effect- well no shit. Seizures are caused by electrical surges in the brain. Why anyone would induce a surge intentionally is completely beyond me. We don't know enough about the brain to do this safely. This is the electrical equivalent of sticking leeches on someone to cure them of whatever disease they might have.

    Yes, I have epilepsy and have had a few of those Grand Mal seizures spoken of. I know what it's like. I really don't think other people want to bother with that trouble.

    Many states will not let you drive for some extended period of time if you experience any neurological dysfunction that impairs your normal functioning, like a seizure does. Try that in Wisconsin with the juice just a little too high, and you can't drive for 3 months, as an added bonus. Great idea.

    Note ECT option (3.00 / 2) (#22)
    by phliar on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 10:43:50 PM EST

    This may in fact be nuts -- I'm no expert. However, keep in mind they're talking about ECT in the same breath. Compared to the jolts that each neuron probably gets under ECT, this is almost benign!

    Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
    [ Parent ]

    Benign my ... (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by nstenz on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 11:53:31 PM EST

    Just because it's not as insane as ECT doesn't make it sane.

    [ Parent ]
    Note "almost" (1.00 / 1) (#39)
    by phliar on Fri Jan 31, 2003 at 05:29:17 PM EST

    I did say "almost benign".... I don't know whether or not this is good; I do have an opinion on ECT. (I'm not a neurologist or psychiatrist; my uninormed opinion is that ECT is something like shooting a clock to fix it.)

    Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
    [ Parent ]

    leeches (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by ryochiji on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 01:50:19 PM EST

    >sticking leeches on someone

    Actually, certain types of leeches are used to treat certain skin diseases and conditions. There's nothing absurd about it, other than...well, it's kind of odd having a medicine bottle of leeches.

    Here's one reference I found.

    IlohaMail: Webmail that works.
    [ Parent ]

    Perhaps (5.00 / 2) (#32)
    by pyro9 on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 09:32:54 PM EST

    It certainly sounds gruesom. However, compaered to ECT, it sounds like a significant improvement. In ECT, the siezure is considered essential to the treatment. The patient is fully anestitized and given a muscle blocade so they don't seriously injure themselves in the siezure. Along with the alleviation of depression, side effects similar to any closed head brain injury are common (such as memory dysfunction, difficulty concentrating, etc). It's worth noting that reduction of depression or temporary euphoria is common in mild to moderate traumatic brain injury. Some or of the opinion that brain injury is the actual mechanism behind ECT.

    In theory, ECT should be a desperate treatment of last resort when suicide is otherwise likely. Unfortunatly, that is not always the case.

    So, considering what TMS is meant to replace, it sounds like a huge improvement. Personally, if I needed it, I believe I'd much prefer cognitive therapy first!

    The future isn't what it used to be
    [ Parent ]
    It's actually pretty safe (5.00 / 2) (#34)
    by DoubleEdd on Thu Jan 23, 2003 at 05:40:03 PM EST

    I took part in an experiment where I had this done - not for any treatment though. I thoroughly researched it beforehand and decided there was no significant risk. Sure, it sounds nuts, but done carefully it's so safe that ethics boards will allow it to be done to completely healthy people just for simple research.

    [ Parent ]
    I like my brain the way it is [nt] (none / 0) (#38)
    by anyonymous [35789] on Sat Jan 25, 2003 at 09:49:35 PM EST

    Healing Magnets: Not Just for New-Age Hippies Anymore | 39 comments (27 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
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