What Does TMS Do for ADHD Patients?
What does TMS do for ADHD patients? Our guide will dive deep into what TMS and ADHD are, as well as what previous studies have revealed.
Disclaimer: The FDA has not approved ADHD magnetic treatment by way of TMS. This guide does not promote TMS as a medical treatment that cures or alleviates the symptoms of ADHD. Some studies have shown that it may help some people manage their symptoms, as we’ll explore below, but research is ongoing.
Table of Contents
- Introduction to ADHD
- Treatments for ADHD
- Does Brain Stimulation Help ADHD?
- What's TMS for ADHD?
- Is TMS FDA Approved for ADHD?
- Does TMS Work for ADHD?
- The Bottom Line
What is ADHD?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describe ADHD as one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders that children face in the United States. Many adults have the disorder and may be completely unaware. Untreated ADHD can have a significant impact on someone's life as it interferes with impulse control, activity level, the ability to sleep, and rational decision-making processes.
Children who suffer from ADHD often fall behind their classmates in school because they're unable to focus on their schoolwork and organize their thoughts and tasks. ADHD can lead to social awkwardness, making it difficult for children to develop positive social behaviors such as listening to others speak or sharing. These difficulties can continue into adulthood where they make it difficult to maintain employment, advance in a career, and/or have healthy familial relationships.
Researchers don't know exactly what causes ADHD but have theorized that genetics, exposure to certain chemicals or toxins, brain injuries, and low birth weight may all play a part. In many cases, a single root cause can't be identified, however. Some of the symptoms overlap with other developmental disorders, so it's important to get an accurate diagnosis if parents notice that their children are having difficulty in school or forming connections with other people.
Treatments for ADHD
Many parents have legitimate concerns about placing children on common medications for ADHD because they may lead to dependence, waning drug efficacy, and adverse side effects. One of the most important aspects of ADHD treatment is teaching parents a recommended parenting style that reinforces coping mechanisms and skills that help manage the disorder.
Children who participate in more physical activity, watch less television, and have healthier diets usually manage their ADHD more effectively. Working with a child psychologist often helps reduce the need for medication, but if psychotherapy and behavioral therapy don't work, a child may be prescribed medication such as Adderall or Ritalin.
One of the problems with medication is that it can have side effects that people aren't willing to live with. Some medications lose their efficacy over time, requiring dosage adjustments or alternative medications altogether. While most children and adults diagnosed with ADHD do see some progress on medication, it doesn't work for everyone. Many people with ADHD are beginning to turn to alternative therapies due to these concerns.
Does Brain Stimulation Help ADHD?
The National Library of Medicine (NLM) has been monitoring clinical studies for alternative treatment methods that use electrical brain stimulation to help patients manage the symptoms of numerous neurological and psychological disorders, including depression, anxiety, addiction and ADHD. Some of the experimental technologies studied include the following:
- Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS)
- Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)
- Trigeminal Nerve Stimulation (TNS)
- Ultrasound Stimulation
- Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for ADHD (rTMS)
According to the NLM, treatments involving electrical brain stimulation, such as deep TMS for ADHD, might be associated with benefits that last longer with fewer side effects. The referenced studies have extremely small sample sizes, however, and offer mixed results. This means that a lot more research is required to refine these technologies and to determine if they're actually viable in treating ADHD.
What's TMS for ADHD?
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation uses magnetic fields to manipulate brain activity and release certain hormones which control mood and behavior. It's commonly used to treat patients suffering from depression because studies have indicated that TMS might release hormones like dopamine and serotonin, which improve mood and concentration. Scientists have been analyzing whether it can help children and adults with ADHD, largely because of past studies which have given hope to many people suffering from psychological and neurological disorders.
Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) for ADHD isn't thoroughly studied. While it isn't an invasive procedure, it doesn't come without risks. Magnetic coils are placed over a patient’s head to create a magnetic field, and this may cause scalp discomfort, headaches, facial spasms, lightheadedness, and/or mania. Some people have reported seizures and hearing loss when the treatments were administered improperly.
Is TMS FDA Approved for ADHD?
No. However, TMS is an FDA-approved treatment for people with depression. The treatment's effectiveness with depression patients is why scientists are beginning to test whether it works for other cognitive disorders such as TMS. While some of the studies are promising, TMS has not been approved or cleared by the FDA for treating ADHD. To receive FDA approval, sufficient research must show that TMS is safe to use and that patients won't experience dangerous side effects or adverse health events.
Because there are some possible severe side effects associated with TMS, it hasn't been approved for use without the direction of a doctor. Anyone who's thinking of using TMS should first consult with their doctor and follow their physician's advice and instructions to ensure the most positive outcome.
Disclaimer: TMS has not been cleared or approved by the FDA for the treatment of ADHD because there is a lack of sufficient data to support its effectiveness in treating this condition. The research above in no way suggests that TMS can cure or eliminate the symptoms of ADHD.
Does TMS Work for ADHD?
Studies in the past have included small sample sizes, so it's difficult to say whether TMS is an effective treatment for everyone. In a study published in 2010, a small number of children between the ages of seven and 12 were given a week’s worth of TMS treatments. While some of the children showed an improvement in their symptoms, there were adverse side effects reported during the study.
Alternatively, 32 adults underwent 20 TMS treatments in a 2019 study to determine whether the therapy helped with common symptoms of ADHD. They also received 20 treatments using a device that wasn't emitting any magnetic fields to determine whether the results were any different. Patients weren't informed at any point of whether the device they were using was an active TMS device or a sham device. Patients then took a self-assessment to determine if their symptoms improved.
Most patients reported that the treatments did help them concentrate, control impulses, and sleep better at night. More studies are needed to determine if TMS can be used on a wide scale for the treatment of ADHD in children and adults, however, and FDA approval is still required as well.
The Bottom Line
Traditional treatment methods aren't without risks, but what does TMS do for patients with ADHD? In very small sample sizes, researchers have identified positive and negative results. The treatment isn't invasive, doesn't cause dependency, and may potentially work to improve focus and modify negative behaviors. While this is promising for many people suffering from ADHD, it's important to speak with a doctor before exploring TMS. Check our newsletter for the latest industry updates as new studies are published.
Disclaimer: The above information is not meant to present TMS as a cure or treatment for ADHD. The studies shown above show that while this technology may help some people manage their symptoms, it's not a cure for ADHD and isn’t guaranteed to alleviate any symptoms. Further study is required on the subject.