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Medical News & Perspectives
April 13, 2005

Magnetism on the Brain

JAMA. 2005;293(14):1713-1714. doi:10.1001/jama.293.14.1713

For years, scientists and physicians have been trying to tap into the brain to investigate and manipulate the neurons that make up its intricate circuitry. Such studies have sought, for example, to understand how thoughts are formed, to find ways to relieve intractable depression, and to block the neurodegeneration of such conditions as Alzheimer and Huntington diseases.

One technique, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), has been used by many scientists to turn on and off particular parts of the brain in research efforts. The technique has also been investigated as a possible therapeutic alternative to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for depression. But TMS, which was developed in the 1980s, has been slow to catch on as a viable therapy for psychiatric and neurological conditions because its effects have been small, variable, and short-term.

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