Toxic Marketing: The Business of Selling TMS

32
9406

Direct-to-consumer advertising of psychiatric drugs has become a staple of TV, magazines, medical websites, and social media feeds. Today, with the arrival of a relatively new technology called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), equipment makers and medical practices alike are taking to Facebook, websites, highway billboards, and beyond to line up customers for a procedure they claim is a “safe, non-invasive, and side-effect-free” treatment for unremitting depression.

During TMS, electromagnetic coils are positioned on a person’s scalp to deliver a powerful electromagnetic pulse that stimulates nerve cells within the brain. At face value, one might interpret these marketing efforts as simply a way to make people aware of this less-familiar treatment—part of the larger “mental health awareness” campaign.  But based on my own painful experience with TMS and further research into its potential harms, I’ve observed these efforts with a critical eye.

There are two distinct types of TMS marketing materials: Those targeting potential patients and those aimed at doctors. What they have in common is framing TMS as a wonder technology that fits right in with the consumer wellness lifestyle. Here is what I found in my online searches for TMS clinic websites and other forms of advertising and why I believe they are misleading and unethical.

Patient Marketing: Promises, Promises
THE Answer to Your Problem

For those struggling with their mental health, TMS marketing materials make big promises. For example, the homepage for the Success TMS website declares, “Your depression ends here. Med-free!”

The website of the NeuroSpa practice in Florida tantalizes with copy such as “Your journey to happiness begins with us today” and “Visit us and watch your new life unfold.” The website of Genesis Behavioral Health, a mental health practice in Texas, has a webpage headlined, “Are You Ready to Get Your Life Back?” It also offers a downloadable booklet titled “The Benefits of TMS Therapy: Your Complete Guide” whose cover features a family dancing in a sunlit field. It opens, “It sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, but luckily for people with depression everywhere, it’s true.”

The Redemption Psychiatry practice in Arizona has a poster that makes TMS sound like everything you ever wanted in a treatment: “Extremely Effective,” “Very Safe,” “FDA Approved,” “Covered by Insurance,” and “Real Results.” It boasts that remission is eight times as likely with TMS as with medication and therapy and that treatment will not only make your depressed brain “normal” again, but also improve your “mood, anxiety, energy, sleep, concentration, motivation, and more.” Wow!

Testimonials are fairly common on TMS clinic websites.  Greenbrook TMS Neurohealth Centers (nationwide), for example, markets its services in Facebook feeds. One ad features a smiling young woman and a quote from patient “Christine” about her cure: “My depression, stress, and anxiety got in the way of work. After TMS therapy, I finally don’t deal with those symptoms anymore.”  Success TMS even features excerpts from the company’s Google Reviews on its website, as if it were a restaurant, and also includes a video of testimonials. One woman declares, “I started noticing a difference within the first week. It changes your life because you go from just existing in the world to actually living.” The TMS equipment manufacturer NeuroStar’s website (“People Just Like You are Feeling Better Every Day”) is centered on video testimonials for their product. None of them specify whether or not these people were paid to participate.

Needless to say, there are no negative reviews to be found on any of these sites.

It’s No Biggie

Despite that TMS can supposedly resolve your depression and transform your life, it’s really no big deal, according to the marketing. One element seen throughout these ads, websites, and brochures are descriptions of TMS as simple, virtually pain-free, and extremely low risk. The copy touts its “non-invasiveness” and lack of side effects compared with medication.

An image on Success TMS‘s Palm Beach, FL website is typical, showing a single side effect for TMS— “temporary discomfort”— while listing 20 different unpleasant symptoms for antidepressants. Similarly, a chain called NeuroMed Centers markets its services through an animated cartoon on its website and YoutTube that seems designed to calm a nervous child rather than educate an adult deciding about medical treatment. Here TMS’s main side effect is said to be “mild headache” which “disappears” after a few sessions.

Some sites make a course of TMS treatments sound downright pleasant. While they acknowledge that the treatment requires a commitment of at least 20 minutes a day every day for many weeks, practices like Greenbrook TMS reassure you that you can listen to music, surf the net, text with friends, or chat with the provider during sessions.

NeuroSpa takes this marketing to another level, portraying TMS as a spa-like environment where, according to the website’s tagline, you can “rediscover the best version of yourself with a safe solution you can trust.” In an uncritical segment on the practice featured on NeuroSpa’s website, a Tampa TV station repeated the medical director’s promise that TMS has NO side effects. He tells the reporter, “You can think of it like a rejuvenation treatment…your brain is being optimized.”

However it works, TMS providers assure us, the treatment will change your brain from a sick state to a normal, healthy one. To illustrate this, they often use dramatic, “high tech” images like the one at left.  This image was captured from SuccessTMS’s Facebook feed. Both Success and Redemption Psychiatry, among others, feature it on their websites and other sites use similar ones. The message: TMS is effective, and here’s physical proof.

 Image Vs. Reality

Based on all these exciting and reassuring messages, who wouldn’t want to try TMS?  But these claims are deceptive.

Let’s take another look at that “before and after” image of two brains. The image above has nothing to do with TMS. It actually depicts PET scans of two different individuals’ brains, used to show the difference between the scans of someone reporting depression and that of someone who is not depressed. The image comes courtesy of a Mayo Clinic web page on PET scans for depression–as I quickly learned from an internet search with the terms “depressed brain scan.”

Yet the ad copy clearly stated “before TMS” and “after TMS.” It is being circulated on social media and other platforms as a marketing tool to convince people to try the procedure.

And while medical pros serve as authority figures in these marketing materials, in reality TMS is commonly performed by technicians—the doctor might not even be on site during your appointment. The extent and type of hands-on staff training varies from clinic to clinic, and certification can be achieved in a few weeks (even online). Employment ads suggest some practices are willing to hire people with only a high school diploma and some medical office experience–all to treat someone’s delicate brain. Compare this with the greater degree of education and training required to become a hairstylist.

Because of this and individual patient differences, the possibility of TMS being performed incorrectly is ever-present. Although the patient’s brain is “mapped” before treatment, how can you be certain the technician treating you possesses the medical background to recognize a neurological problem if it occurred during treatment?

More important, as I wrote in my MIA essay “Can TMS Hurt You?,” TMS is neither non-invasive nor free of side effects. And far from inducing remission of depression symptoms in from 30% to 80% of patients (depending on whose marketing materials you read), for thousands of people like me, it wasn’t effective. Instead, it produced a host of unlisted side effects and debilitating new symptoms, bringing lasting damage to our health and lives.

Common side effects reported among the 1,800 members of the “Victims of TMS Action Group” I started on Facebook include: long-lasting or permanent cognitive impairment and memory recall, extreme irritability, intense and long-lasting anxiety and depression, panic attacks, new suicidal ideation, chronic headaches and migraines, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, tinnitus, depersonalization and derealization, and environmental sensitivities. People also report a host of less-common problems that are no less distressing and significant.

It’s not that this information isn’t available: Reports have been made to and are maintained in MAUDE, the FDA’s adverse events database for devices. Members of my Facebook group have regularly reported their post-TMS problems to the clinics that administered it to them. I have reported my own horrific experience to the FDA as well as to the clinic that treated me; all of us have been brushed off or ignored.

Additionally, many TMS  side effects are described in case reports and other recent research published in peer-reviewed journals. While preliminary, they include troubling findings well beyond “temporary discomfort”:

In addition, a 2014 analysis of TMS studies by retired psychologist Phil Hickey found incidents of seizures as well as high dropout rates, which he believes may indicate injury or other forms of harm among participants.

Marketing to Doctors
TMS as a Cash Cow

What makes healthcare providers engage in the questionable practice of hard-sell marketing? As the saying goes, follow the money. Psychiatrists and neurologists in private practice are running a business, and TMS equipment manufacturers and marketing companies are selling TMS to doctors as a win-win proposition: a supposedly life-saving treatment that’s also a potentially huge market.

The website of MarketTMS estimates that a TMS practice can build gross revenue of $3.1 million USD per year if it can manage to get 50 patients a day through their offices.

If we believe the statistic that 1 in 4 people in the US are afflicted with mental health issues and convince ourselves and others that TMS has virtually no side effects, that also theoretically means there is virtually no liability for the clinic. An earnings potential of over two hundred thousand dollars a month with a (supposedly) small risk profile sounds like a dream come true for entrepreneurial-minded medical practices.

According to materials from the iterate marketing group, they were able to help TMS providers in the Pacific Northwest “dominate the marketplace.” By the look of their website, the name of the game for TMS clinics is not helping patients by effectively treating illness but “getting market share” and “growing their business.”

On its site, MarketTMS states:

According to a leading research firm, the global TMS market size is anticipated to grow nearly 10% per year. US and Canada are expected to dominate the TMS market as a result of attractive insurance reimbursement policies, increased awareness, a large number of skilled physicians, and the proliferation of healthcare facilities.”

Notice there is no mention here of whether TMS is even effective.

Manipulating Patients

Marketers’ naked appeal to a practice’s bottom line includes encouraging doctors and staff to directly manipulate potential patients in both the recruitment and treatment phases of TMS. The website of the Beyond Marketing group, which advertises on LinkedIn and Facebook, overtly states that the goal is to compel patients to use TMS:

“On the marketing end, we use video to tell the story. Remember people don’t understand what TMS and ketamine is for the most part. So we need video to tell an effective story and give them a compelling reason to get started with you…. So when a clinic gets started with us, they get access to the Art of Converting New Patient training program. This gives you the frameworks, the scripts, the knowhow, the mindset, and everything you need to schedule and enroll new patients.”

Beyond Marketing even has a downloadable PowerPoint that includes a slide on the basics of patient manipulation—including “tactical empathy”—to sell people on the treatment:

The website also points out a new offering: Training in “how to hire a lead handler, who’s going to be able to follow up with your new patient opportunities and enroll them into care.” According to Beyond Marketing, in order to make the most money and be really effective with your TMS practice, you need to “handle” prospective patients in a particular way to get them enrolled and into the TMS chair. The name of this marketing program? “Seven Figure Psych.”

Beyond Marketing is only one small part of a larger enterprise marketing TMS to doctors or helping doctors to market TMS to patients. For example, the branding company Agency Creative proudly describes on its website how it helped Salience TMS Neuro Solutions in Texas overcome challenges like low public awareness and doctors’ reluctance to prescribe new treatments through a re-branding campaign called Reconnect to Life. The goal: to “make this complicated technology approachable and memorable for both patients and physicians.”

Image Versus Reality

No doubt TMS clinics and mental health practices are seeking to attract new patients and increase their revenue—that’s why they participate in marketing campaigns. It’s more direct than waiting for PCP or psychiatrist referrals, and the more these practices promote the treatment and unverified testimonials on various media platforms, the less the clinics need to rely on word of mouth and real-world outcomes to fill their chairs.

But because TMS equipment manufacturers and marketing companies can appeal to both greed and idealism by emphasizing how safe and effective TMS supposedly is, they are incentivizing practitioners to take an assembly-line approach to patient “recruitment” and care. This pays little regard to the real-world risks of serious harm—or even whether TMS is truly an appropriate treatment for a given individual. For example, many clinics use the PHQ-9 depression test or similar psychiatric screening to determine if patients are the right fit for TMS. It’s a short, subjective tool that’s been found to overestimate the prevalence of depression and generate many false positives. When I took the PHQ-9 at the TMS clinic I went to, the staff told me my score wasn’t high enough so I should change my answers if I wanted the treatment.

It is very unwise to tie financial incentives to medical treatment. If your professional success is tied not to patient outcomes but to how many people you treat, patients are bound to be harmed as treatment standards drop and/or the treatment protocols were ineffective or dangerous in the first place. Financial incentives also discourage much-needed accountability among TMS providers. If I’m a medical director and have been convinced that TMS is completely safe and saves lives, I’m unlikely to believe that a patient’s complaints of pain, anxiety, or cognitive issues during or after treatment is due to TMS. (So many former patients I’ve encountered tell of being reassured that their suffering is temporary, urged to stick with it, and/or that their new physical and psychological problems couldn’t possibly be due to TMS.)

So what happens when you aggressively market a new, expensive medical treatment where those who administer it have virtually no accountability? Patients who experience horrible neurological side effects, which are difficult to substantiate using standard or even advanced medical diagnostics, are forced into an almost impossible situation. They are unable to build a legal claim against the clinic or manufacturer that harmed them (it is incredibly difficult to find a lawyer to take your case without legal precedent) and discover that physicians don’t believe their TMS horror stories when they seek medical care for their injuries.

End High-Pressure Health Care

Widespread marketing media promoting TMS to the public and doctors is a morally bankrupt enterprise. People struggling with depression should not be enticed to try TMS based on pretty pictures and ad copy about miracle cures. It is a very complex and potentially dangerous medical treatment that involves applying electromagnetic energy to the brain. I believe people need to consider that fact very seriously before trying it, and make sure it is appropriate to their situation. This requires fully informed consent. Instead, as we scroll through social media or drive to the office, ads pitch us with a solution to our problem before anyone knows what our problem is, encouraging us to seek out TMS before we even know what it is or if it can help us.  Then, when we go to a clinic, the staff tell us that TMS is virtually harmless and helps almost all of the people who come through their doors.

How do you substantiate those claims? Most people don’t have the scientific background to evaluate clinical studies, additional marketing, and manufacturer claims. The office might point you to testimonials, but not to former patients who had a bad experience. And they probably won’t show you their records for outcomes, much less data on how treatment results look across large populations. On top of this, what if the staff at the office have been trained by a group like Beyond Marketing and give you the hard sell, offering a reassuring answer for every question while oozing “tactical empathy?”

Prospective patients should never be manipulated or “handled” into any kind of decision about their healthcare. They should be told the facts about what TMS is and what could happen during treatment by an experienced and honest doctor in order to make their decision on whether or not to pursue it. Instead, we see deception, manipulation, and profiteering in the TMS industry, which end up costing some people their quality of life and even their livelihoods.

Recently a friend of mine passed away of complications from medical issues that she believed were a result of her TMS treatment. She was 28 years old.  She was told TMS is harmless and that there would be no lasting side effects. I wonder which marketing campaigns she saw before and after she did her treatments. I wonder how hard the TMS clinic she went to for help relied on sales techniques instead of honesty about possible risks and benefits to get her into treatment. I wonder how many other people end up in a clinic for the same reasons—and how many will lose their own lives.

TMS marketing is a very dangerous proposition given its ability to exert a high level of influence over the public, doctors, and clinic staffs for a treatment that is potentially damaging and even lethal. In particular, when there is a very high earning potential tied to a treatment and also very little accountability and disclosure of harms, the least we can do is limit or restrict marketing so we can eliminate the potential for medical malfeasance and widespread harm.

 

Additional research by Miranda Spencer

***

Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.

***

Mad in America has made some changes to the commenting process. You no longer need to login or create an account on our site to comment. The only information needed is your name, email and comment text. Comments made with an account prior to this change will remain visible on the site.

32 COMMENTS

  1. A much needed and well written article. TMS is being promoted to psychiatrists and the public as virtually free of side effects, when it clearly is not. The article’s description of the marketing strategies, with the emphasis on greed, is troubling. Hopefully professional and public awareness of this important topic will improve.

    Report comment

    • Thank you as always for the read Doc.

      I am glad to hear about what you’ve seen with this as well. It was pretty troubling after my injury to see that every single doctor I went to see would end up having a TMS flyer from the local clinic on their desk and when I asked about it, they all had reps who had stop by to market with them.

      Its even more troubling that they were short staffed at their office when I had my TMS done. To me its really apparent its a money grab, and i just cant get over the fact that they are able to significantly damage someones brain to that end. It just baffles me – Still.

      Hope you are well.

      Report comment

      • Greetings…I read your post on TMS. I personally, have been through TMS for depression and OCD and have seen amazing results.

        The hearing issues- did you wear the headphones like you were instructed to? Did you sign the consent about the dangers of treatment without headphones or earplugs?

        The other thing I’m thinking is that you didn’t have the right diagnosis. Those with bi-polar respond terribly to TMS. Maybe that’s something to consider.

        I wouldn’t bash one therapy because of your own experience. It has helped MANY others, including myself. For me, I hardly had any side effects. Did you take the advil 2 hours before treatment? It seems as if maybe you weren’t informed of these methods to reduce side-effects.

        Report comment

        • Howdy Mandy,

          Great questions and commentary on my pieces, I am so glad you read them.

          For the first question, Yes I did wear the assigned hearing protection at every single session that I remember(I was checked by the staff as well), but there was no consent I was given as to what may be any side effects for hearing or not wearing ear plugs(I have my consent forms and there was none about Hearing loss or Tinnitus). Perhaps this is because TMS has not been proven or even documented to cause damage to the inner ear, which hearing protection might prevent. Instead the harms that TMS incur are to the hearing processing centers in the brain or rather the auditory cortex in the temporal lobe which is right next to the most common application site for TMS. Damage to this part of the brain is what is causing the tinnitus and hearing loss, not the inner ear.

          The reason people are given hearing protection with TMS treatment is likely because the people administrating it and manufacturing TMS devices do not know how the tinnitus is coming about because they don’t appear to know much of anything about human neurology or the impact of electromagnetic fields on human anatomy. If they did or rather admitted to it then TMS would not be a treatment offered as non invasive, or rather there would be a subsequent legal and ethical liability. Maybe sales would not be so great?

          Your right about the incorrect diagnosis part, the clinic i went to had me exaggerate the PHQ9 so they could get my depression diagnosis severity high enough so insurance would approve it. It worked out which was great for their profit margin. But, I have never been diagnosed with Bi Polar, nor have I ever had rapidly oscillating depression and anxiety. Well, rather I never had it until after I had TMS. After TMS it has been quite severe, and I am sure i could get the diagnosis – but there is something rather interesting about that. As per Bob’s book Anatomy of an Epidemic, Bi Polar actually didn’t appear to exist in any relevant way until the invention and interdiction of psychiatric drugs and treatments… which could mean that the severe inhibitions and agitation those drugs cause to the CNS created Bi Polar in a population that did not previous have it… and here I am having severe Bi Polar symptoms(As most people harmed by TMS report) after TMS. I wonder if TMS actually causes such significant injury to the CNS that it could generate Bi Polar, it certainly seems to line up with Robert Whitakers thesis. Furthermore, i wonder if people with Bi Polar do not respond well to TMS because their nervous systems are already agitated and injured, because it looks like Bi Polar comes from medicalized psychiatric harms in the very vast majority of cases over 99 percent… That does seem to imply causation of Bi Polar and nervous system dysregulation and injury from TMS, directly. Very Interesting. I like where we ended up with this.

          Not sure that I agree with your statement on not bashing one therapy because of your own experience. I think this is fundamental evidence – What I experience with a treatment is actually far more valuable than scientific studies because studies are synopses that do not include personal narrative and therefore do not educate patients on what it is actually like to go through a treatment. Experiential evidence is actually the most fundamentally important part of medical science, and it makes sense to me that people would want to hear the honest experience of others before they try a treatment for themselves. Would you not want to hear someone else’s experience before you tried the same treatment? I am curious what your answer is to that question.

          I am glad you “hardly” had any side effects although I am curious what they are because you did not mention them here, which makes me question any authenticity you may have to being open and honest in your commentary.

          I did not take Advil two hours before treatment because I was not advised to. I also did not experience severe headaches, in fact the headaches i had were minor and I did not have any complaint about them. Or are you informing me that taking Advil two hours before treatment could reduced the severe cognition problems I had after treatment, when I was forgetting what I was doing, where I was or what people were saying to me? Maybe the Advil could have reduced the Tinnitus, Hearing loss, Panic attacks, Fasciculations(constant, unending muscle spasms) all over my body, Changes in vision, exhaustion/fatigue, or insomnia that I began experiencing?

          If you can find a moment I would also like to hear if you think your amazing results in regard to your OCD and Depression are the result of cognitive impairment(The lack of negative rumination for the depression, and an inhibition to repetitive thoughts for OCD) or impairment to your nervous system? Do you now experience other signs of CNS inhibition like fatigue and exhaustion that did not exist before? Do you experience any change in memory or other cognitive processes? Any other neurological symptoms?

          Report comment

  2. Article: “More important, as I wrote in my MIA essay “Can TMS Hurt You?,” TMS is neither non-invasive nor free of side effects. And far from inducing remission of depression symptoms in from 30% to 80% of patients (depending on whose marketing materials you read), for thousands of people like me, it wasn’t effective. Instead, it produced a host of unlisted side effects and debilitating new symptoms, bringing lasting damage to our health and lives.

    Common side effects reported among the 1,800 members of the “Victims of TMS Action Group” I started on Facebook include: long-lasting or permanent cognitive impairment and memory recall, extreme irritability, intense and long-lasting anxiety and depression, panic attacks, new suicidal ideation, chronic headaches and migraines, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, tinnitus, depersonalization and derealization, and environmental sensitivities. People also report a host of less-common problems that are no less distressing and significant.”

    Thank you, author, and thank you, Mad in America, for publishing author.

    My personal opinion is only strengthened. The nonsense of religion, especially this country’s denominate religion, accepted by so many for so long, makes the nonsense of psychiatry so palatable to the masses, who don’t want to and feel they don’t have the time or need to read and research, who can’t find this website, who want a quick fix, who believe marketing too readily.

    I wonder how often an article like this one, this exact article, comes up in searches when people do conduct some research?

    Report comment

    • “tms for depression side effects” in Google did not return this article in first three pages

      “TMS therapy quackery” a Google suggested search returned your previous MAD article on first page

      “TMS therapy negative reviews” a Google suggested search returned your previous MAD article on the third page

      Using this article’s exact title returned the article in Google as first result

      Report comment

      • Thank you Gina,

        That is good to know. I am really thankful it is showing up in the searches. Its the only way many of the people I have spoken to were able to get the truth about what happening with this treatment.

        Isn’t it so wild that there is not more information out there about the negatives? It defies all reason.

        Report comment

        • I found your site last night at 1:45, after not falling asleep easily once again. I have been searching for any information on extensive and severe side effects from TMS for weeks. I found this under severe headaches with TMS. I am just finishing up 30+ visits. I have been having headaches every day since I started treatment. Lethargy and basically just sitting the day out. Intermittent head and body tingling and chills, followed by intense sweating. Two weeks ago, I woke up to a left side swollen face and ringing in that ear, along with intense headaches on the left temple. When I had my biweekly appointment with the Dr, I told him of my symptoms, which he quickly dismissed as any side effect to TMS. I questioned him, asking how can you be sure none of my symptoms are related? He actually said he didn’t see where my face was swollen. I had the cap on and my head sandwiched between the pads, along with a mask on. He quickly left after that. I went to urgent care yesterday, where the Dr had not heard of TMS. Sent me to the ER for a head CT Scan, after ruling out a sinus infection. Sat in the ER for three hours in a waiting room, where they were treating patients and registering us in at the same time. A little embarrassing being examined in the waiting room full of people. Returning to the waiting room after the CT scan. The CT Scan was normal and once again the Dr was not aware of TMS. He could not say what was attributing to the swelling, the tiredness, headache that felt like the intensity of a migraine, light headedness, chills and sweating. My BP was 200/97 and went down to 179/97, after a ibuprofen injection. I have high BP, but obviously not this high. It is controlled with meds. He prescribed a migraine medication and told me to see a neurologist if it didn’t subside within a few days. I have had migraines since I was 14 and have not experienced them regularly since menopause. I am 58. This headache is much different severity in nature. I am thankful I found your site. I think I would like to join the Facebook site as well. I have been so frustrated these past few months with not being taken seriously with these side effects.

          Report comment

          • LisaM,

            I am so sorry to hear that. I wish it was not so common and I really really wish there was appropriate informed consent for TMS. When we look at when electrical physicists were experimenting and documenting how these fields affected the human body it was back in the 60’s and 70’s. These exact harms have been known about for over 50 years, and this is just widely accepted published stuff, scientists knew about this stuff before that. To think that these device manufacturers and scientists developing and experimenting with this technology are unaware of the harms is absolutely false and unbelievable.

            I am so glad you had the presence of mind to seek out this knowledge and understand what is happening to you better. Thank you so much for sharing your incredibly important story here so we can all benefit from each other and feel less alone.

            The Facebook group is a great place to share and there are so many of us there now. While it is hard to read each and every one of these stories, it is so important we understand and share with each other in my mind.

            It took me a while to find a good neurologist but I did and at least I now have a Dr with an open mind and interest in figuring this out along with me. It is hard as many docs don’t believe us and can be very doltish but there are many of them out there with the desire and ability to really help us out.

            Hang in there.

            Report comment

  3. This TMS is an extremely negative development.

    Some of the people who have been shamelessly promoting this are the Austism/Aspergers promoters, John Elder Robison and Alex Plank. And of course, they look at this as the answer to their own alienation. They have identified with the Autism/Aspergers brand, and they do demand that others go along with this. Robison promotes Plank in his third book about raising his son “Cubby”. And Plank expels anyone from his forum who does not go along with the concept.

    And then so this TMS is how Robison and Plank say that they restore their normality.

    It is the magnetic analog of Electro Convulsive Therapy.

    This has got to be stopped!

    Joshua

    Report comment

    • You are exactly right.

      If you remove the name TMS from the information and furnished an electrical engineer with the physics that this treatment produces and asked them if it was safe to do to a persons head, they would unequivocally tell you “No – it is not safe in any capacity and should never be done” Same thing with ECT.

      Report comment

  4. John Elder Robison dedicated his forth book, “Switched On” to the Transcranial Magnet.

    I even told him that I never have agreed with his interpretations, but that I definitely could relate to all of his experiences.

    But with that 4th book, I stopped reading him.

    He reports about how good he feels after the magnet zaps, and how he can see the colors of people’s eyes.

    But this is exactly the same sort of thing as what people report after an Electro Convulsive Zap. It is like their brain has been reset, so they have forgotten about everything and they are just happy that they are still alive.

    But this does not make the procedure legitimate. And these are not just quacks experimenting with coils of wire. These people carry government issued medical licenses, and often degrees from our most prestigious institutions. This is a systemic abuse and exploitation of people who have already been marginalized and made vulnerable.

    This is what makes it rise to the level of Crimes Against Humanity, and this is how it should be prosecuted.

    Joshua

    Report comment

  5. Josef Mengele, besides having his medical degree and medical license, also had a PhD in Anthropology.

    He liked to do surgical experiments and dissections on identical twins, people with mismatched eyes, and on dwarves.

    He was trying to prove the Nazi racial ideas and that genetic heredity is everything. And he had powerful backers to whom he was always sending specimen jars.

    Jewish twins being kept in Auschwitz for his experiments.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josef_Mengele#/media/File:Child_survivors_of_Auschwitz.jpeg

    These were liberated by the Red Army in January 1945.

    Now there had been a 20 year statute of limitations on War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity. But Simon Wiesenthal did not forget. West Germany did not forget. US DOJ did not forget. And Israel and its Mossad did not forget. So in the mid 60’s they worked with the UN to get that statue of limitations lifted.

    Mengele’s experiments offered no medical benefit to his victims. All they served to do was to gratify his own ego and to prove his own theories. And Mengele was not just some loan operator. He held a government issued medical license and he had powerful state affiliated institutions behind him.

    1986, US Navy Forensics Expert examining the presumptive disinterred skull of Mengele. Subsequent DNA analysis would give a positive identification, so the hunt was finally over.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josef_Mengele#/media/File:Mengele_US_Navy_Medicine_(page_10_crop).jpg

    Joshua

    Report comment

  6. Electricity and magnetism are governed by Maxwell’s equations, and it is the 3rd and 4th equation which govern the interrelation between electricity and magnetism.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maxwell's_equations

    The fourth, Ampere’s Law says that if you have moving charge, a current, then you will have a magnetic field.

    And the third, Faraday’s Law says that if you have a time varying magnetic field you will induce currents.

    So when you have these coils near a person’s head and you put current through them, there will be a magnetic field. But a steady magnetic field is not really going to do much harm. It has to be a time varying magnetic field, as that will induce currents. It is not only the strength of the magnetic field, it is also how rapidly it varies.

    It would be interesting to see specific information about how these machines are designed. Do they use super conductors and liquid nitrogen or liquid helium for cooling?

    I suspect they take energy out of the power grid and then store it. Not unlike a studio flash photography rig. Then at some point a switch is thrown and they discharge all the energy into the coils. This makes a very rapidly increasing magnetic field and then it decreases rapidly.

    This will induce current in anything at all conductive which is around it.

    It would be interesting to see detailed information about this and try to appraise why they are doing this now. It might be advances in super conductivity.

    It is a sophisticated and costly machine, but it is a torture machine. And what it does is very crude. Rather like trying to repair a wrist watch with a sledge hammer.

    It is also rather like putting someone’s head into a microwave oven. We all know that microwave ovens cook from the inside. Food can still be refrigerator cool on the outside, while steaming hot on the inside.

    And in the first decades of microwave ovens there were newspaper accounts of people who had put live small animals into them. The animals exploded.

    What is really sad is simply that there is nothing what so ever in the victims head which needs to be altered. It is all just a ritual of torture and abuse to prop of some bio-medical psychiatry theories.

    These perpetrators are not garage experimenters, they hold degrees from our most presitgious universities. So rather than continue to have debates about this for decades and decades, I say that the most important thing is to get these medically licensed perpetrators prosecuted, convicted, and executed

    Joshua

    Report comment

    • This is incredibly interesting, I knew it was the rapidly alternating nature of the fields that made them so dangerous to human cells, but I did not understand that piece of it before you mentioned it. Thank you for that.

      I believe TMS was created back in ’85 by Anthony Baker, so its old but not too old. It has been used by the VA since about that time as well, but was not allowed to be marketed to the public in the US until 2008.

      I do agree with your analogy of fixing the wrist watch with a sledge hammer, which is also interesting to me because one of the first doctors that would admit TMS was dangerous said that TMS was like a little jackhammer working on the side of your skull.

      I certainly do think the practice of TMS on humans is criminal given what i have learn about the physics and also that the people that developed it knew exactly what they were doing to people when they created it. Anyone with a basic understanding of electrical physics and engineering would, and that knowledge would certainly be required to build these devices.

      A thought I cannot get over is how similar this is to ECT and ECT is so overtly barbaric… I cant help but think someone got the grand idea to create a wireless ECT device in order to overcome the stigma and more obvious nature of harm associated with it in an attempt to continue making money and destroying the cognition of those who have mental hardships in order to solve their problems.

      Report comment

  7. I think it would be worthwhile to try and find out the history of TMS. Why are they doing it now, when they could have done it over 100 years ago.

    Is it super conduction technology, better energy storage, better solid state switching?

    Good to see the specs on the machines. These are sophisticated machines, but what they do is very crude. This is because they are torture machines.

    Did they experiment on cadavers, on animals? Did they then do dissections? What did they find? Did they make any design adjustments on the basis of this?

    I had heard that electro convulsive therapy came from the practice of giving pigs head shocks before slaughter. The shock knocked them out, or it killed them.

    ECT can leave marks. TMS, being like a microwave oven, gets most of its energy focused deep inside.

    Were they ever able to find visible evidence of damage from dissections?

    Joshua

    Report comment

    • You make really excellent points on what to look for.

      Some of these questions I had not thought of but would like to find the answers to. Much of this stuff is hidden or shuttered away in difficult to find places but I think it is very worthwhile to try and figure it out. I think they will hold some of the most profound answers.

      Report comment

  8. If you can find any stuff written by the nuts and bolts engineering people who developed these machines, they might more brazenly explain what the machines are designed to do, and what the limiting parameters are. Like they probably don’t want to send victims home with boiled gray matter dripping out their ear holes. So they have to limit the power level somewhat. And were there any metal, like jewelry. on the subject close to the coils, it would interfere with the designed effect. It also might get heated to dangerous temperatures. You don’t put a metal spoon into a microwave oven. And there might be special electrical service requirements when they want to install one of these, not totally unlike electrocution machines.

    The French writer Michel Carrouges recognized the existence of certain machines in literature that turn love into death. They are ritualized torture machines, they produce extreme states, and sometimes they kill.

    Carrouges regarded solitude and isolation as the means to transform sexual love into a death-machine.

    https://www.archaeology.wiki/blog/issue/the-bachelor-machine-a-symbol-of-modern-eroticism/

    Bachelor Machine
    https://www.christianhubert.com/writing/bachelor-machine


    In 1954, Michel Carrouges found a structural similarity between Duchamp’s Large Glass and the punitive apparatus described in Franz Kafka’s short story “In the Penal Colony” The apparatus consists of a lower part: the “Bed”, an upper part: the “Designer”, and a part that moves up and down and is called the “Harrow”. The condemned man is strapped to the bed and whatever commandment the prisoner has broken is written on his body by the Harrow, which consists of an unspecified number of needles fixed in glass. The prisoner is not told of his sentence. He learns it on his body. This generally takes about six hours of suffering, after which the prisoner, in a moment of transfiguration, reads the inscription through his wounds, and dies in the hours that follow.

    There is a newer book from Carrouges, written in both English and Italian.
    https://www.amazon.com/Machines-C%C3%A9libataires-CARROUGES-Michel/dp/B0046Y3QD4

    file:///C:/Users/branch/Downloads/arts-07-00067%20(2).pdf

    Georges Bataille had a similar idea in Accurse Share, about the material surplus produced by Capitalism, which is what makes for war, and also these parasitic disciplines like Mental Health and Eugenics.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Accursed_Share

    The “Bachelor Machine”, a symbol of modern eroticism
    https://www.archaeology.wiki/blog/issue/the-bachelor-machine-a-symbol-of-modern-eroticism/

    Science Fiction novels which I have not yet read, which further develop the concept.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bachelor_Machine

    And Bachelor Machines or Celibate Machines are a central concept in Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Oedipus

    I would say that what it is most important to understand here is that these machines are for ritualized torture and killing, and to produce extreme states. Some of them are purely literary.

    These kinds of Mental Health torture are part of the enterprise of Neoliberal Capitalism and they are part of the justification for wars across the globe used to maintain colonialism
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimes_against_humanity#Nuremberg_trials

    Joshua

    Report comment

  9. Our neoliberal economics at home, and enforced by wars, inequality, and energy consumption around the globe, require the medicalization and scapegoating of those of our own population who don’t fit into the scheme.

    Joshua

    Report comment

    • ahahahahahaha, It is very interesting how the further I look back in history the more I am able to see through the deceptions of current events, especially medical ones. Also, these older depictions and concerns shown through media are a lot more honest than what we see now.

      Almost everything now is dismissive and passive in nature. Its very very disturbing.

      Report comment

  10. How many people have they zapped? What is the most zaps on person has had?

    And nonconsensual zaps? Are they zapping juveniles, that is always nonconsensua?

    Are they zapping people who live in institutions, not really in charge of their own affairs?

    Even with consenting adults like John Elder Robison, these perpetrators are affiliated with our most prestigious universities and they have government issued medical licenses. But these zaps serve no medical purpose, they just gratify the perpetrator. So they are Crimes Against Humanity.

    And then since this is use to perpetuate the war which Neoliberal Capitalism depends on, these are War Crimes.

    How much energy do these machines have stored up for each zap? How fast is the zap? Shielded rooms and doorways to protect other people?

    Report comment

  11. Thanks!

    If they were doing something like this in a 3rd World country it could be used to justifty regime change.

    As it is, other countries could prosecute Americans for Crimes Against Humanity of War Crimes.

    We need to put an end to it.

    Joshua

    Report comment

  12. Thank you, James. I read your first two articles before deciding to try TMS. Your articles saved me from doing more than 5 sessions. I was documenting how they went and what concerns I had each day, and monitoring my side effects.

    Day 1 and 2 were OK. In fact I had some really UP and connected moments with myself and nature that felt like the ME of 20 years ago. I slept wonderfully the first 2 days.

    Day 3 – 5 were not OK and insomnia started. Headaches were constant after day 5 and continued for several weeks. I still feel like a part of every day I get a reminder headache though they don’t last long.

    I’m 4 weeks now from the treatments and these are my continuing symptoms:

    My pre-existing tinnitus that usually ranged from 3-5, is now a constant 8-10.
    My hearing is more sensitive, somehow, too. I’ll have the TV set at 25 and suddenly it’s too loud, then I’ll raise it because I can’t hear it.

    I’m emotional in a way that may be explained by experiencing TMS as a trauma. It’s a little PTSD like. I need a lot of time alone and react strongly to things.

    My taste buds don’t work right anymore. I had a similar experience during chemo 5 years ago.
    I don’t know how TMS did it, but it’s been very odd. I’m not on any new meds or anything else…

    I’m having with the insomnia what feels like a second menopause(20 years later…). I wake sweating and hot and it’s a 63 degree room.

    I seriously think If I’d stopped after the first two sessions I would have been fine. It was overload. I wonder if they even consider that some people are sensitive?

    The worst part of this is there’s been no follow up with me about how I am doing. They don’t seem to want to KNOW what my reactions have been and record them.

    I want to report my reactions to TMS to warn others. I’m someone that has been sensitive to medications, I can take pediatric doses of meds and have trouble with ‘the adult dose’ and I’m not a small woman. Chemo was so destructive, I completed only 3 of 6 week-long infusions in the hospital. And ended up with an additional hospitalization for blood transfusions and bowel obstruction.

    3 was all I needed. I think 6 would have killed me.

    This whole idea that everyone is the same is a problem. When I needed sedation about half the anesthesiologists would listen to me about halving the dosage. The times they wouldn’t I’d wake 4 hours later propped in a chair drooling because they expect me to wake within a half hour…

    So, I was wary of TMS because I’m wary of western medicine’s approaches. I’m wary that trials are rarely done on women for medications. I’ve had some extreme reactions to psychiatric meds which have led me to learn to live with my depression or take the ‘safe’ meds that don’t work wonders. Trying new ones after the long list of failures seems risky.

    But I was oh, so hopeful. Especially after those first 2 days. If it were offered as a one time treatment at half the frequency I think I might consider doing it again. But, no. They offer 3 month sessions 5 days a week. Doesn’t that seem a bit crazy? How about seeing what effect it has on an INDIVIDUAL after the first session? Rather than telling patients to ‘stick it out the first week, as it’s the hardest!’

    I’m thankful for your articles because it gave me the framework to question and to monitor myself. I expect there is no permanent damage but I’m suffering and babying myself while I try to find my equilibrium.

    I’m going to be looking for places I can report my symptoms as the administrators don’t seem to care. People need to armed with defenses again this therapy. They need to go in there hoping but cautious and they need to call the shots.

    I’m still not quite right in the head, and I’m still having insomnia as I write this, but I wanted to say thank you many times. I even tried to get them interested in reading your article but there was silence. No interest. Anecdotal. We are all anecdotes and our symptoms are NOT caused by TMS, I get the feeling they’re blaming my symptoms on mental illness.

    Keep doing what you are doing, James.

    Report comment

    • Raina726,

      Thank you so much for the thoughtful reply.

      You have identified some critically important things for people to understand who are trying to navigate western medicine and psychiatry in particular.

      I think one of the most important things here is, and I have discussed this many times since my injury, is that the western medical model and science generally does not even consider individual biology. The biggest thing they may consider is varying weight or age among individuals, but this doesn’t even scratch the surface of the incredible diversity among all of us. As such, there is never a normal therapeutic dose of a drug or treatment that will apply evenly to everyone. A long time ago i noticed that medication effects vary wildly just based on what and how much i have eaten that day – not to mention how my biological make up is vastly different than anyone else taking the same medication. Doctors just simply do not take this into account much at all, if you are lucky you may find a good doctor who will listen to you, understand and make adjustments accordingly, but these doctors are very very few and far between. All the literature and research at their disposal also does not make any differentiation between patients and rarely records or shares the data that would be needed to see critical difference in patient populations. The longer I live, the more appalled I am at how incredibly negligent and ignorant this medical paradigm is to the critical details that could allow it work well. It is very very unfortunate that your TMS provider has this same blindpot, unfortunately they are not required to know anything at all about neurology so they would have no idea about how adversely this treatment could effect your brain and the rest of your central nervous system. The whole TMS proposition is completely inappropriate and imbalanced, the people administering the treatment have no background or basis for understanding the machines they are using or the effects they will have on their patients. You have displayed classic signs of neurological injury and yet they have no idea what is happening to you. In this way we are all anecdotes, as you have said, because they cant even comprehend what they are doing.

      Another very interesting detail that pops out to me more now than ever before is that you experience all these varying degrees and instances of neurological sensation and disruption. We know that electrical impulses always take the path of least resistance and that varies incredibly widely in the human body, in fact its likely in an organ like the brain to be different every single time. It appears that TMS almost randomly disrupts all sorts of different neurons causing chaos with all the sense. Although certain things are almost always the same, we all have emotional problems after – intense anger, severe ups and downs, emotional sensitivity or suggestibility – over sensitivity to external stimuli, changes in sensation, sight, hearing etc. Almost everyone gets tinnitus or worsening tinnitus. In this way it appears our network of neurons are rewired for us, but certainly not in a beneficial way, like the manufacturer or clinics claim. Recently i came upon a very good read – Rock Steady by Joey Remenyi, in it she outlines an approach to rewiring these connections to a more appropriate place using neuroplasticity. It talks a lot about how we perceive unwanted sensations and how that can inhibit neuroplasticity and healing, whereas if we reinterpret these things as just neural communication from your body, or your body just trying to communicate with you, you can hear your body and shift your focus to healing which will in tern direct your neurons to a new and desired function instead of the one artificially disrupted and changed by TMS. Very interesting stuff. I am sorry you experienced all this, I have much of it as well, But i am exceedingly glad my writings allowed you to catch the harm upfront so you have a better chance at recovery.

      Also, I noticed many of us who report serious harms identify as a kind of highly sensitive person or empathic personality type. I have always fell into that category as well, having what sounds like similar experiences with medications and the sort as well.

      I think these things should be reported as much as possible because very few of us have the courage to report on what happens, and understandably so, many times we are left in such a place where it can just be hard to function let alone figure out how, where and what to report.

      I recommend reporting to your state medical board, The FDA(below), your state attorney generals office, and also your insurance if they paid for it. Something to keep in mind is that it may be fraud if they financially benefit from your harm, especially when they did not provide the experienced they claimed. In this way, your insurance will not pay them for their services, or will tell them to return any payment because it could be illegal for them to keep it once they are notified of harm, especially if it is federal funds like those from Medicare.

      I hope you make a quick and full recovery, generally speaking there is an initial period where things seem the most intense but they begin to taper off and whatever harms are left begin to normalize. I hope you have none because you had so few sessions.

      (https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/medical-device-safety/medical-device-reporting-mdr-how-report-medical-device-problems)

      Report comment

  13. My question to this reading would be, why are there so many research studies showing it is effective for depression if it isn’t? Are these many studies also a sham? Depression is deep rooted and many factors are involved and no 2 individuals are exactly the same. The “just” of TMS is to stimulate brain neurons to “get going” since depression does cause brain hypoactivity. Many people say it’s helped them tremendously but yes it often doesn’t provide much help depending on the rooted reasons a particular person is depressed. I agree it’s advertised by clinics reporting false remission rates etc., but TMS can be helpful for many people.

    Report comment

  14. Jeremy,

    These are great questions and important things to think about.

    why are there so many research studies showing it is effective for depression if it isn’t?

    There is a gap between theoretical application and practical application, and for those of us who are looking closely, theoretical application really does not mean much, actually it means nothing when it comes down to if this treatment can actually help or harm people. The only thing that is relevant is if it is actually doing these things or not.

    So those of us that are looking closely are talking to the people who come out of the clinics and are looking at the aftereffects of our own experience. When we measure these things out we something drastically different than what was presented to us and what the studies are showing. For instance when I was getting treatment, there were no other patients in the clinics that were showing improvement and since talking to many others after my treatment I saw they either had no improvement or reported serious harms. After repeating these results hundreds of times I have to ask myself, What is happening with these studies and the research?

    When I take a deeper look I see that the studies that are touted by the clinics and the media are funded by the manufacturers. And while that does tell us something what tells us the most important parts is looking at the details of the studies and research. They do not provide follow ups with patients, and they do not address walk outs amongst other logical problems and flaws in their procedures. When we look deeper there we see them sweeping negative aspects of the results under the rug which also points to a lack of ethics and medical/research misconduct. In the case of peer reviews it becomes very plain that peers do not apply adequate scrutiny to the works either which has been a well known problem I have discussed with professional researchers and academics. There is no disincentive to go along to get along.

    Another interesting fact is that I have seen quite a few studies now showing TMS is virtually ineffective and not better than placebo, these studies don’t seem to get much traction among people who should be equally weighing the data available out there.

    Depression is deep rooted and many factors are involved and no 2 individuals are exactly the same. The “just” of TMS is to stimulate brain neurons to “get going” since depression does cause brain hypoactivity.

    You are quite right, there are emotional and psychological causes for depression and physiological causes for depression like fatigue and other things. So how can TMS would unevenly help folks, which makes sense but your second point here that TMS stimulates neurons is important. There is no evidence for any claims of how TMS works or that it even stimulates neurons. Electrical fields can make neurons fire because electricity is involved in neuronal firing. This does not mean they are stimulated in any helpful way or that they have any impact on mood one way or the other. We do know however that strong enough electrical fields which are well under the levels of intensity delivered by TMS cause cell death. So there is evidence that TMS is harmful as long as you consider cell death harmful, but there is no evidence that it is helpful or would encourage positive mood or fix any neurological deficiency. We can make the inference, but it does not make it true. Our neurons firing more or at all does not mean we are happier.

    I believe some people report TMS as helpful but the very vast majority of people I have spoken to have said it does nothing for them. A very significant group of people have been severely harmed and have ended taking their lives as a direct result of the damage TMS caused. Many people may even report that TMS was helpful because they are no longer feeling depression, anxiety or some other unpleasant sensation but that does not mean they feel good either, they may just be blunted and this blunting feeling could be caused by experiencing severe neurological harms as a result of TMS. In fact I have heard this from people quite often as well. Even I reported feeling better during my treatment only to later figure out I had cognitive impairment and I could not longer process what was going on around me which caused temporary relief form stress… only to have severe neurological symptoms of panic, anxiety and neurological agitation crop up a few weeks later as the delayed effects of the repetitive electrical injury manifested.

    I am always very fascinated by people who claim positive results from TMS. I have had conversations with a few of them and have never found that they made significant progress in their mood or health. At best they seem to break even. I am curious if its possible, as I have not run into any evidence of it so far.

    Report comment

LEAVE A REPLY