February 15, 2017 - Brain stimulation therapy has the
power to change and transform lives, and the technicians who provide it to
patients are essential to their treatment. Caitlin
Newberry, a CAMH rTMS technician, delivers Transcranial
Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy to patients enrolled in research studies
at the Temerty
Centre for Therapeutic Brain Intervention.
“People come here with a burden
on their shoulders. They say I’ve tried everything else. This is their last
resort,” says Newberry, who has a BA in Psychology and did mental health
research at St. Michael’s Hospital before joining CAMH. “It’s wonderful to see
someone with 40 years of depression, with only occasional relief from sadness,
get results with this therapy.”
rTMS Technician Caitlin Newberry is getting patient Shelley Hofer ready for a treatment that will deliver electromagnetic pulses to stimulate areas of her brain associated with depression.
Patients participating in Temerty Centre research studies get
treatment for illnesses ranging from anorexia and depression, to bipolar
disorder and schizophrenia. They receive treatments five days a week over four
to six weeks.
One of Caitlin’s patients is Shelley Hofer, who has lived with
depression since childhood. Recently, she was in a research study where she
responded well to treatment. She now receives repeat compassionate treatment courses
(if her symptoms return) with a form of TMS called Theta Burst Stimulation
(TBS). TBS delivers three minutes of electro-magnetic pulses to stimulate the dorsolateral
prefrontal cortex (area of the brain associated with depression).
“I would have died if I didn’t
get this help,” adds Hofer, who has tried medications, Electroconvulsive
Therapy (ECT) and psychotherapy over the past 20 years. “CAMH is a save-your-life
“Caitlin is like that light at
the end of the tunnel. She makes a huge difference because of who she is and
the work she does,” says Hofer, who travels three hours roundtrip for a three-minute
rTMS Technician Caitlin Newberry looks over a patient’s MRI scan to prepare for a therapy session using Theta Burst Stimulation.
Newberry was the first repetitive
TMS (rTMS) technician at CAMH when she started nearly four years ago. She’s now
part of a four-technician team that treats up 40 patients daily. They know how
to administer various TMS research treatments for different studies, so if a
colleague is away they can help any patient.
“I feel lucky to be part of a
team that is helping patients who were struggling for decades get healthier and
better,” adds Newberry. “You slowly see this thaw. It’s like they are waking
up. By the end of the treatment, patients are now smiling, joking, making plans
and looking forward to the future.”
Newberry learned this therapy under
the supervision of Dr.
Daniel Blumberger, co-director of the Temerty Centre. She did a month of
treatment observations, supervised applications of the treatment, and studied
the theory and history of rTMS.
“Caitlin and the team of
technicians play a key role in delivering treatment and monitoring patients’
progress, so we can treat patients and learn how to improve brain stimulation
therapies and get more people better with this treatment,” says Dr. Blumberger.
“The rTMS techs are an integral part of the clinical and research teams
administering innovative, non-invasive therapies that are successful in
relieving disabling symptoms for patients like Shelley.”
This therapy is not a cure, but
post-treatment MRIs and follow-up assessments show most patients feel the
positive impacts months after treatment has ended. While TMS is not yet covered
by OHIP, CAMH and three other Ontario hospitals currently offer treatment
through participation in research studies.
“Depression is everywhere and it
doesn’t have to be as bad as it is if this therapy was more accessible,” says Newberry.
“Our hope is to have therapy be made more available, because seeing someone
change before your eyes from day one to day 30 is remarkable.”