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Ask Dr. Ticcy: Can magnets help treat Tourette Syndrome?

Ask_Dr_Ticcy_Logo-238x250Dr. Ticcy is a pseudonym for the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada National Office, which draws on information from experts across Canada and beyond to answer questions from the TS community. Please send your questions to tsfc@tourette.ca with the salutation “Dear Dr. Ticcy.”

Dear Dr. Ticcy,

I heard that doctors are now using magnets to treat Tourette Syndrome. Is this true?

Sincerely,
Curious

Dear Curious,

Low frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a relatively new procedure. It uses magnetic fields to simulate nerve cells in the brain. Doctors place an electromagnet on the scalp over the supplementary motor area. Next, they activate the magnet for short periods sending pluses of magnetic waves into the brain.

The aim or goal is to help to reduce tics through altering the rhythms in the brain.  While the treatment is noninvasive, there is a risk of seizures particularly if someone has had seizures in the past.

This treatment was recently tested on individuals with TS in a clinical trial sponsored by the New York State Psychiatric Institute. It is also undergoing testing at several other facilities throughout the world including China and Germany.

Because this is a new treatment, the TSFC cannot endorse it at this time. The choice to undergo treatment is ultimately your own. A course of treatment is estimated to cost $5,000-$7,500 dollars. Extended insurance providers may cover the treatment on a case-by-case basis.

Sincerely,
Dr. Ticcy

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