The Life Solution Center of Darien is offering a new treatment option for people suffering from depression and other brain disorders by using magnetic stimulation.

The new treatment is noninvasive and offers for certain patients what many medications are unable to -- a cure. The treatment, transcranial magnetic stimulation, uses magnetic pulses to target a specific region of the brain that is either overactive or not active enough.

Tarique Perea is a leading expert in the field of magnetic stimulation and uses the treatment on many of his patients. He said the benefit of transcranial magnetic stimulation is that patients won't suffer from any side effects and the success rate is very high.

"Typically our patients fall into two groups. One group is using medication but the medication isn't working as well as it used to, and this offers a novel method of treatment to help them. The second group of patients are people who want to get off their medications because of the side effects," Perea said.

After studying how certain brain disorders target specific circuits within the brain, Perea is able to target those areas with the magnetic pulses until the brain learns to activate or deactivate certain areas on its own.

"This is more effective than medications because it's side effect free and patients stay better, so in many ways it's a cure," he said.

Although TMS is primarily marketed as a way to treat depression, Perea said he found it can be highly effective at treating other brain disorders like attention deficit disorder, substance abuse issues, eating disorders and other issues.

A typical treatment session will last about 37 minutes, but Perea said the sessions are usually customized to maximize the effectiveness.

"About 10 percent of patients who undergo this treatment may relapse, but then they come in for a booster session and they are fine again," Perea said. "Studies have found that about 90 percent of patients experience significant improvements in their symptoms and 67 percent are 100 percent better."

Even though TMS has proven to be adept at combating brain disorders, Perea cautioned that patients will still need to undergo therapy as they are treated. He also said patients will need to commit to the treatment sessions, which can be as often as five days a week for three to four weeks if symptoms aren't as severe and the patient is younger. For older patients or patients with more severe symptoms, treatment can last as long as five to six weeks.

"The treatment we are doing here is what medicine would do at the end of its course. This is a commitment but it brings happiness, not just for the patient but also the people around the patient."

Since TMS treatment has been available, Perea said he has met with some resistance from patients who are afraid of what they might be exposed to because of some misconceptions about how the treatment works.

"Some patients are afraid this is like electroshock therapy or they are concerned their brain circuits will be changed in a harmful way. That doesn't happen with this treatment," he said.

One of Perea's patients who wished to remain anonymous is being treated with TMS for depression. She said she was taking antidepressants, but didn't like the side effects of the medication, such as weight gain, and she was concerned for the health of her baby because she was pregnant. She has been undergoing treatment for about two weeks and was still skeptical about the effectiveness of TMS.

"I can't honestly say whether it's working or not. I do know I don't have any side effects," she said.

Perea's patient said she would probably recommend the treatment to other people suffering from depression, especially if it worked. However, she cautioned that people should continue to receive counseling as they undergo treatment.

"This is a long process and you need to continue receiving counseling as you get treatment," she said.

Besides the method of treatment, offering TMS at the Life Solution Center of Darien has given the practice another way of meeting clients' needs.

Executive Director Maud Purcell said the TMS is an addition to the already comprehensive services offered including their specialists, attorneys, career counselors and education consultants.

"We have specialists from all different backgrounds and counselors, so without the Life Solution Center of Darien, you wouldn't have TMS in this town," she said. "We try to meet everyone's needs and we're always searching for cutting edge technology."

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