TMS

March 5th 2024

The evolution of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: Past, present, and future

Pioneering a revolution

Over the past four decades, the field of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) has evolved from a promising experimental technique into a powerful therapeutic tool. TMS, a non-invasive method for stimulating brain activity using magnetic fields, has opened new avenues in neuroscience and psychiatry. In this blog post, we will look into the history and development of TMS. From its humble beginnings to its current state, and explore the potential future advancements in the industry.

The birth of TMS (early 1980s)

The story of TMS begins in the early 1980s when British engineer Anthony Barker and his colleagues developed the first TMS device. Their invention marked the birth of TMS as a scientific tool. The initial machines could only stimulate every five seconds but they laid the foundation for the groundbreaking advancements that would follow. A fun fact is that the basic TMS technology takes its outspring in the discoveries of the Danish physicist H.C. Ørsted, who was the first to discover a direct link between electricity and magnetism in 1820. British scientist Michael Faraday discovered mutual induction in 1831, which is the fundamental working mechanism in TMS.

Expanding the possibilities (1985 – 1995)

Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, researchers around the world began to explore the potential applications of TMS. Mark George, a prominent figure in TMS research, played a significant role during this period by demonstrating the therapeutic potential of repetitive TMS (rTMS) in treating depression. This breakthrough opened the door to using TMS as a clinical intervention.

Clinical validation and regulatory approvals (1995 – 2005)

In the late 1990s, TMS entered the clinical scene and several devices received regulatory approvals for diagnosis of neurological disorders. Companies like MagVenture began developing more advanced and user-friendly TMS machines, making the technology accessible to a broader audience.

Evolving techniques and applications (2005 – 2015)

The 21st century witnessed a surge in TMS research, leading to the refinement of stimulation protocols and the development of innovative TMS devices. Beginning with Neuronetics that initiated the first certified treatment of major depressive disorder in the U.S. Followed by continuous advancements allowed TMS to be used world-wide in diverse applications within both psychiatry and neurology like treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), addiction and chronic pain.

The present state of TMS (2015 – 2023)

Today, TMS is an established clinical tool with a global presence. Numerous international companies manufacture TMS devices that have received regulatory approvals in various countries. These devices are being used to treat an expanding list of neurological and psychiatric conditions, making a tangible impact on patients’ lives.

Future perspectives (next 10 Years)

The future of TMS holds tremendous promise. Here are some key perspectives for the next decade which the TMS industry is continuously debating on brain research conferences around the world:

Accelerated treatment protocols: Accelerated TMS is an innovative treatment protocol for depression and certain other mental health conditions that differs from traditional TMS therapy, which is typically administered over several weeks. Here, patients may receive multiple treatments on the same day over a period of only five days compared to e.g. one treatment per day over six weeks (Accelerated TMS – moving quickly into the future of depression treatment | Neuropsychopharmacology (nature.com).

Advancements in targeted stimulation: Researchers are working on improving the precision and specificity of TMS by developing techniques like neuro navigation. This will allow for more accurate targeting of brain regions, reducing potential side effects and expanding treatment options (Neuronavigation maximizes accuracy and precision in TMS positioning: Evidence from 11,230 distance, angle, and electric field modeling measurements – ScienceDirect.

Personalized treatment plans: As our understanding of brain function grows, TMS therapy will become increasingly personalized. Tailored treatment plans will optimize outcomes for individual patients, maximizing the effectiveness of TMS interventions (Efficacy and safety of transcranial magnetic stimulation for treating major depressive disorder: An umbrella review and re-analysis of published meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials – ScienceDirect).

Home-based TMS: The development of portable and user-friendly TMS devices may enable patients to receive treatment in the comfort of their own homes, increasing accessibility and reducing the burden of clinic-based sessions.

A bright future ahead

The journey of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation from its inception to its current state as a therapeutic tool has been remarkable. With ongoing research and technological advancements, the TMS industry is ready for continued growth and innovation. As we look ahead to the next decade, the future of TMS promises to bring even more effective and personalized treatments to individuals battling neurological and psychiatric conditions.


If you’re interested in learning more about how TMS can be used for treatment-resistant depression, we encourage you to download our e-book: “Introducing TMS for Depression. A guide for psychiatrist”

Explore our Instagram