Brain stimulation is one of the oldest and still most effective biological interventions in all of neurology. Beginning with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in the 1930s, modern and less intrusive variations with fewer side-effects like Magnetic Seizure Therapy (MST) and Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) are now conducted every day by Dr. Daniel Blumberger and his team at CAMH’s Temerty Centre for Therapeutic Brain Intervention. They treat the most sick patients, the ones for whom no other intervention has worked, and see them getting their lives back. As these newer therapies are only available by public funding in three provinces (and not in Ontario), Dr. Blumberger believes only a fraction of the people who could benefit from brain stimulation are able to access it. Many people with mental illness suffer from depression, including people with autism and schizophrenia, where standard treatments for depression (e.g., antidepressants or talk therapy) don’t work. Public funding of brain stimulation would be game changing for many with mental illness.
As CAMH’s understanding of the biological mechanisms of the brain and its systems continues to improve, so does the Temerty Centre’s ability to administer brain stimulation in increasingly precise and effective ways.