tms for dementia

This article will examine the potential role of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) in the management of dementia.


Dementia is a condition linked to memory loss. It is a progressive neurodegenerative condition characterized by cognitive decline and functional impairment.

  • Every three seconds, someone develops dementia. 
  • Over 55 million people worldwide have dementia. 
  • Every twenty years, the rate of dementia doubles. 

Today, transcranial magnetic stimulation offers the potential for managing dementia.

Understanding the Pathophysiology of Dementia

Dementia is a neurological condition that affects millions of people around the world. The pathophysiology of dementia is characterized by cerebrovascular disease and aggregation of misfolded proteins. 

This means that certain nerve cells and neural Connections in the brain are damaged, and they don’t function properly. When the groups of proteins deposited in the brain don’t function the way they should, they can also have an influence on symptoms of dementia. 

Dementia generally centers around memory loss, and there are several diseases that can result in dementia. However, in some cases, depending on the cause, symptoms of dementia can be reversed, including cognitive and psychological changes. Transcranial magnetic stimulation is currently being evaluated as a form of treatment to reverse certain dementia symptoms.

treatment for dementia

What is TMS?

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a noninvasive and short process that relies on magnetic stimulation. Sessions last no more than twenty minutes, during which magnetic pulses are sent through targeted regions of the brain to help treat symptoms. There is no surgery, anesthesia, or recovery time, which means that following a session, you can return to your daily routine. 

Current Research on TMS for Dementia

Does TMS help with dementia? Several studies have found that TMS is a promising tool for treating neurological conditions, including dementia, particularly because of its ability to target specific cortical circuits in the brain. 

Studies have found that TMS treatment for dementia offers significantly reduced inhibition, which can help modulate personality changes and cognitive deficits associated with dementia.

Other work has found that TMS and dementia treatments make it possible to modulate specific abnormalities in certain cerebral cortex circuits. These abnormalities can cause many cortical function issues, too. 

There is a great deal of promise for TMS as a rehabilitative tool as well in order to help restore brain plasticity in those with dementia. 

In secondary dementia, where dementia is a secondary tool from another neurological condition, TMS dementia treatment shows a great deal of promise in treating neural damage or neurotransmitter dysfunction and improving the relationship between certain brain circuits and other mechanisms.

Potential Mechanisms of Action of TMS in Dementia

One mechanism of action of TMS treatment is targeting the cerebral cortex. Specifically, there are circuits that TMS treatment for dementia can help address:

  • Glutamatergic circuits
  • Cholinergic circuits 
  • GABAergic circuits

Other work has confirmed that targeting frontotemporal dementia can successfully increase cortical excitability, offering promise as a treatment option. 

Similarly, Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is where many symptoms of dementia originate, including:

  • Movement disorders
  • Language deficits
  • Executive function issues
  • Personality changes 

TMS can target these deeper areas of the brain to help change impairments and improve blood flow and neural function in the area. 

Types of Dementia and TMS Applications

There are different types of dementia, as mentioned, like primary dementia as a neurodegenerative condition or secondary dementia which is a symptom of other conditions. The application of TMS for patients with dementia can apply to any of these situations, but the targeted area of the brain will differ slightly depending on the type of dementia a patient has.

Optimizing TMS Treatment Protocols for Dementia

In order to optimize the results of TMS treatment, protocols for dementia center on having repetitive stimulation, utilizing deep TMS technology. If you are interested in using TMS applications for different types of dementia, you’ll have to work with your medical team and with TMS specialists to determine the length of your treatment based on the type of dementia you have and the stage of your dementia.

In most cases, treatment lasts an average of four to twelve weeks, with sessions lasting no more than 20 minutes each day of the week. 

dementia patient

Safety and Tolerability

TMS is very safe. Treatments are well-tolerated across all demographics. The non-invasive nature means that you can drive yourself and won’t suffer from other side effects. The most noticeable thing is a clicking sound in the helmet placed on your head during the session and a tapping sensation along the scalp. 

The most common reaction to TMS is minor discomfort at the treatment site, which usually goes away by the end of the session and disappears entirely after the first few sessions. 

Given that TMS does not involve any sedation or anesthesia, you remain alert and awake during the process, able to read or listen to music while the treatment occurs. Once the sessions are over, you can go back to your daily activities, work, or home. 

Who qualifies for TMS dementia treatment?

TMS treatment is an effective way to treat several conditions, and nearly anyone can use it as part of their care plan. However, there are a few exceptions:

  • Anyone with a seizure disorder
  • Anyone with magnetic-sensitive metal in their head within four inches of the coil
  • Anyone with metal plates, cochlear implants, stents, or other implants around the head that cannot be removed

Future Directions and Challenges in TMS Research for Dementia

Right now research is still limited. So does TMS work for dementia? There are several potential causes and contributing factors to dementia and certain symptoms can be mitigated or reversed through things like certain vitamins, a healthy diet, reducing cardiovascular risks, and other activities.

Research still have a lot of room to examine personal safety, efficacy, and optimal treatment protocols at different stages of dementia and related to different causes or risk factors. As more research continues and more trials are conducted, medical professionals may be able to incorporate TMS treatment for dementia with greater success.

Summing Up

Does TMS help with dementia? Studies indicate that TMS and dementia symptoms hold great promise as an adjunct treatment modality. There remains a need for further research and clinical trials to establish the efficacy, safety, and optimal treatment protocols for the treatment of dementia, given the different causes and the different stages of dementia.

However, if you are interested in TMS dementia treatment, reach out to your doctor about the potential application given your situation.