Day four at MUSC’s Brain Stimulation Lab involved a good little bit of sightseeing.
One of the first people visitors are likely to see is Tammie Brown, shown here just inside the door of the Brain Stimulation Lab. It would be hard to say she’s the nicest person there, because everyone is nice – and helpful, and knowledgeable. Tammie’s one of those people who anticipate your needs, and remember needs that you forgot all about.
We apologize for not having pictures to post of all the other great people who work in the Brain Stimulation Lab.
Our Tour Of Research Facilities Was Mind Blowing!
After an early morning lecture, Dr. Colleen Hanlon took us to the research MRI lab. She’s shown here explaining how TMS is used inside of the MRI machine. The idea is to find out exactly what magnetic stimulation therapy is doing.
One obstacle is the force of the MRI. The imaging machine has a magnetic force six times that of one of those magnets they use to pick up a car. And, of course, TMS has a magnetic coil (shown here on the end of a cooling tube, which carries water to cool the coil, and electrical energy to run the coil). The technical obstacles here are many, but they’ve been solved, so researchers can figure out all sorts of cool things.
In the same lab we visited this machine, but didn’t sit in the old dental chair. This particular TMS device is used to do sham studies. That means it’s used to deliver fake TMS, and real TMS, where neither the person running the machine nor the research patient know which is being delivered. This research has shown that real TMS works, but fake TMS does not work.
Without sham studies anybody can claim anything. Sham studies were hugely important in our decision to offer TMS to Augusta’s depressed population. Without convincing sham studies we would not think research claims were worthy of anyone’s attention, but the sham studies are convincing.
This close up of the coil shows the real coil on top, a block of wood in the middle, and a fake coil on the bottom. Dr. Hanlon explained how this sham apparatus is used, and it’s actually pretty simple.
One of the reason we were convinced to become involved in using magnetic stimulation therapy was because of the convincing sham studies. They are super important in research. Someone very clever invented this version of the coil, and several other aspects of this particular TMS machine.
Our next stop was an amazing lab where they are able to very precisely administer TMS to extremely precise locations within the brain, fully guided by actually MRIs of the research subject’s brain, and a very sophisticated, and very expensive computer program, and some other high tech equipment.
Using these devices TMS is delivered with exacting precision to very small areas of the brain. This sort of precision far exceeds what is needed in treating any of the psychiatric disorders, but it shows just how accurate the clinical methods we will use in treating our patients are, and they are pretty darn accurate!
Of course this lab is used for some amazing TMS research, too, including stroke rehab. Several people in our course are associated with that research. They’re learning more about the clinical uses of TMS, right alongside the physicians in attendance, and contributing to the interactive conversation our group in having with the teaching researchers and clinicians.
This is an MRI image of the research subject’s brain with a superimposed outline of potential target areas. Everything is this lab is incredibly fancy stuff research equipment. We were impressed over and over.
This coil – a weird shape indeed – is then used to deliver magnetic pulses.
They call this coil the Mickey Mouse Ears Coil!
We’re monitoring EMG results to see exactly how much energy is required to get the job done. In administering transcranial magnetic stimulation we need to use the lowest amount of energy possible, because doing so increases the safety of the treatment without compromising its effectiveness.
This is very cool research we think. Equipment like this isn’t needed for clinical treatment with TMS, but it is wonderful to learn about the various projects which guide Dr. Mark George and his staff.
- They continue to develop new ways to use TMS
- They are learning more about how TMS works
- They are gathering data to prove how and why TMS, properly used by trained clinicians certified by Dr. George, is one of the most effective and safe treatments for treating psychiatric disorders
Depression is just one of the uses for this treatment.
Sightseeing wasn’t the only item on today’s agenda. There were lectures, and demonstrations, and a great deal of time to talk things over, and to ask questions. In many ways, this may have been the most useful day of the Brain Stimulation Intensive Course so far. Every day has been great. We anticipate another chance tomorrow to learn more about how to help people in Augusta by using brain stimulation therapy.