TMS and Treatment Resistant Depression

by | Aug 5, 2019

Patient undergoing TMS treatment

My 17-year old daughter Audrey has struggled with depression and OCD for years. Many different combinations of antidepressants (with all their associated side-effects) have been tried over the years with limited effect. We’ve tried different modes of therapy. We’ve switched psychiatrists. We’ve switched therapists. While she’s had ups and downs, an underlying sense of darkness and sadness has pervaded her life since she was 12. I won’t go into more detail about what depression is like and how hard it’s been – those of you with personal experience with depression – whether yourself of a loved one – know what I’m talking about. What my daughter had was referred to as “treatment resistant major depression.”

The point of this IFOD is to share information about treatment she recently underwent that has been extremely effective so that it is more widely known. The treatment is called “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation” or simply “TMS” and is FDA approved for treatment of depression and OCD.

TMS is administered by a machine that is strapped to the patient’s head. The TMS machine transmits strong electomagnetic pulses into a specific region of the prefrontal cortex. The electromagnetic stimulation creates additional blood flow and increases neural activity in that specific region of the brain. Research has found that specific area of the prefrontal cortex is under-active for patients with treatment resistant depression. TMS can cause the physiology of the brain to change and for that area of the prefrontal cortex to be more active.


My daughter received TMS treatment five days a week for seven weeks and then had three weeks of tapering treatments. Each treatment took about 25 minutes. There was a treatment center, Greenbrook TMS, about 2 miles from our house so it was pretty convenient. The main side effect was that she had a headache for a few hours after treatments for the first two weeks.

According to Harvard Medical School, “approximately 50% to 60% of people with depression who have tried and failed to receive benefit from medications experience a clinically meaningful response with TMS. About one-third of these individuals experience a full remission, meaning that their symptoms go away completely.” Here’s a good article from Mayo Clinic on TMS: Link.

The TMS treatment has been very effective for Audrey. At the beginning of treatment she scored a 27 out of 30 on a depression scale. At the completion of treatment her score was a 2 out of 30. The darkness is mostly gone and she’s very pleased with the results.

The effect of TMS may be permanent for her, or she may require future treatments in the future. Time will tell. So far, so good.


  1. Dr Nolan Williams at Stanford is currently conducting study with better aiming and higher power levels (1 week of treatment) with 90% effectiveness –
    Clark Lehman

  2. Thanks for sharing !

  3. It is my experience that most people would not share like you have shared. I am proud of you because by sharing and providing an excellent explanation of the treatment others may very well be helped.

  4. A great article & while the treatment results with Audrey are so positive & thankful , the stress & constant effort by Audrey & your family cannot be fully appreciated by anyone. Your determination is awesome & to be admired by everyone.Prayers are ongoing!!

  5. Thank you for sharing that, John. Many of us have family members whose daily lives are, or have been, seriously impacted by depression. It is always helpful to know about new, promising treatments.

    Good luck with Audrey.

  6. John — thank you for this post and your frankness and bravery. We should talk sometime about the working group JSMF has trying to reframe our understanding of why ECT, TMS and other network or circuit level interventions can be effective.
    Also an interesting read is Mind Fixers by the esteemed historian of science Anne Harrington.

  7. Great Article & Info John!! Thank you for sharing this important treatment. Wow!!!
    People do not deserve this horrible depression, and I am so happy to know that headway is being made :-)) (yay Audrey🥰)

  8. Great info, John. Thank you!

  9. Congratulations to Audrey, you and your family on this successful treatment. I had not heard of TMS until this IFOD.


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